We as a nation are essentially an agricultural culture, with probably the longest history of agriculture on the planet. And the livestock, particularly the bulls and cows, have played an important part in the making of our food, our land, and our lives. Today, many things may have changed, but still, to enrich this soil, you need these animals. India had over one hundred and twenty indigenous breeds of cattle. But today, only thirty-seven of them survived – the rest have become extinct. It is very important that at least the remaining ones are preserved. We need to make people aware that these breeds are all dying fast. Unless we preserve them now, they won’t be there much longer.
Why should we preserve these indigenous breeds? It is scientifically established that the milk from these cows, and even their dung and their urine are very useful in our agriculture. The milk has a special quality. It has A2 protein. Most breeds in other parts of the world have milk with A1 protein, which is said to cause coronary heart disease. In terms of health, in terms of cancer prevention, and above all, for our children to grow up well, and to fertilize the land, these indigenous breeds are very important. We need to bring this into people’s awareness, including those who live in towns and cities.
Unfortunately, in the last thirty, thirty-five years, we somewhere got this idea that foreign-bred cows are of a superior quality. But today, there is enough science to tell us that the indigenous cows are of a much better quality, both as milch cows and work animals. These cattle breeds have always been a part of our culture, our homes, and our families. A large number of people have moved to cities – there is no question of them having cattle. But at least once a year, there is this festival of Mattu Pongal, as an expression of our gratitude for the animals who work for us.
At present, here in the Yoga Center, we have about two hundred and fifty indigenous animals. We are seeing how to get at least a sample of all the thirty-seven breeds that still exist and keep them going. We are also trying to encourage the local farmers in this direction. Locally, wherever we are promoting organic agriculture, we are also bringing in these indigenous Indian bovine breeds. Right now, it is only happening on a very small scale, but there is a vision to do this on a larger scale. I think in every region of the country, there should be some kind of institute or organization to preserve and promote the local breeds. We need to bring them back. It is very, very important to do this.