From a recent email discussion group exchange:

“I understand, you think that the GBC should be more concerned about devotees NOT DRINKING MILK from cows that will be slaughtered because without putting cow protection first all else will go to hell as per the many references you have kindly posted in the past and reminded us all.

“I agree. Why don’t you formulate a proposal to the GBC that all ISKCON members should drink only milk from cows not ear-marked for slaughter? I’m all for it. I get my supply from a local farm.

“The likely resistance would be that Srila Prabhupada himself would drink such milk in the absence of any other choice. But you would state it is now time to upgrade, put cow-protection to the top of all issues because from successful implementation all other things will flourish.”

My reply:

Executive summary:

Milk offsets mean devotees who have to buy industrial milk offset the slaughter of the cow by contributing to cow protection programs. These donations would be the cash flow (capital) needed to establish varnaashram. No GBC approval is necessary as the decision rests with individuals and cow protection programs already exist.

Full reply:

That is the key point, given no other choice, but we also understand that he was quite keen to establish devotee farms.  He wasn’t content to coast on the concept of ajnata-sukrti, unknowing devotional service. That the cow whose milk is benefited when it is offered to Krishna therefore it is okay to drink industrial milk. That is a concept that falls flat when preaching to intelligent people in the West.  It comes across as cult thinking.

Yes, Prabhupada drank such milk as a field expedient measure. Just as when we have a flat tire, we use the little donut spare tire from the trunk to get us to the repair shop but if we continue to run with it eventually the differential burns out and the whole car becomes dysfunctional. That is the principle expressed in:

“Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled.”

Srimad Bhagavatam 8.24.5

As for drinking milk only from cows that will not be slaughtered, yes, that is the ideal, and we should strive for this. I was speaking to Devamrta Swami during the Festival of Inspiration and he said that when he goes to New Zealand he is a vegan because the devotees there are conditional vegans — they will not drink milk until it comes from protected cows. He accepts this because the quality devotees who are organizer types mostly come out of the animal rights movement and they are valuable to his preaching program.

That of course is a more principled and austere stand than we can reasonably expect from most devotees. As for formulating a proposal for the GBC, yes, that would be part of a broad campaign and when we do get more devotees on board with following Prabhupada’s instructions for the future direction in this matter that could be something someone in an urban environment with a desire to serve cows could pursue. My hands are full.

The NZ example is also instructive in that proposals aren’t the only way to influence the behavior of the GBC.

FYI,  Dev Swa shared with me that a man came and monitored their programs for a while and after observing silently for a week or two asked to see who was in charge. When DS came a week or so later, he told him he was impressed with the character of the devotees and asked DS what was his dream.

DS said that when Prabhupada first sent a devotee to NZ, he told him not to open a temple but to start a farm. DS told the man that he felt he was failing SP by not having a farm  in NZ. The guy dropped a half million dollars on him and bought ISKCON a 22 acre valuable property with both ocean and mountain views. Mostly it is a nature sanctuary, but with 3 tillable acres, and they are moving to having their own cows.

Not that we could expect this in every case, but sometimes when we take up the order of the spiritual master, the ocean can become as the water in the footprint of a calf.

I clearly have lacked that sort of potency in my own endeavors to promote cow protection, but hopefully as others get involved, their shakti will prove more fruitful.

While I am fully aware of what the pure goal should be, I am also crushingly aware of the pressures of the macro economy, the oil based world economy, and the difficulties in manifesting that goal. While we have bright spots like the Hungarian farm community, for most devotees it is currently an impossibility to find milk from protected cows.

My bridge proposal is to emulate the concept that has currency in the environmental movement, that of carbon offsets. Anyone in the environmental movement can explain this concept to you. It is basically that even though one is the end user of products that generate greenhouses gases one supports greenhouse gas reducing activities so one’s carbon footprint is reduced.

A common example is to pay a premium on one’s electric bill that the utility company uses to purchase higher priced energy from renewable sources, like wind mills.

My point is that we can use the concept and apply it to milk consumption. That one would continue to purchase industrial milk for the time being but offset it by contributing to projects that do protect cows. (I would call it blood milk, due to its low cost being subsidized by the blood of the cow and her calf when they are slaughtered, but I have been advised that is too inflammatory.)

Then, even though the literal cow one gets milk from would still be slaughtered, a different cow would be saved, ergo an offset.

There are already so many existing programs. The cow program in Vrindaban is up and running and as recent horror stories of gunmen rustling cows demonstrates, there is a clear need.

I can speak to New Vrindaban’s situation where we have excess barn space, pastures, sufficient labor and competent management to protect at least 50 more cows than we currently have, the lack being funding.

The idea is if devotees can’t perform the austerity of fasting from milk until getting it from protected cows, they would buy industrial milk and contribute to cow protection programs.

That money would be used to strengthen and increase cow protection programs and in the long term a supply of protected cows’ milk could be produced.

This requires no approval from the GBC or anyone. It is a decision that individual devotees can make on their own, no using the GBC as a scapegoat for personal inaction.  No cow programs need to be set up, no barrier there. While new programs could definitely be in the long term plan, everything to put this program into effect already exists.

The only lack is to wean the devotees off the teat of ajnata-sukrti and have them mature into taking greater responsibility for their actions. Where the GBC could be useful would be serving as examples and helping in an education program promoting milk offsets.

If the cows are protected then they will produce dung, a more valuable product than milk in Vedic, village based times. The dung is used to fertilize the fields and from that agricultural base can spring varna ashram.

Do it now. Here is one place to contribute immediately:

Set up your own site to benefit any cow protection program you are drawn to.

Hare Krishna
Madhava Gosh