In an organic farm near Dharamshala, Badmash Peepal, an animal welfare collective, runs a recovery centre for large and small stray animals.
Here is where they also work to change people’s perception and behaviour towards stray animals.
They have now started a new campaign to help abandoned cows.
Stray cows — stray because they have been abandoned — often enter fields belonging to other farmers.
And the way the farmers deal with these cows is chase them away using sticks and sickles — even though the legal way to do this is by using water.
Too often, these cows are badly hurt — they lose horns, suffer fractures, and have serious wounds.
The folks at Badmash Peepal heal these cows on their farm, but now they’ve come up with an ingenious solution to change farmer behaviour and halt the problem at its source.
They are making sweaters from gunny sacks for cows.
To further de-incentivise the farmers from hitting cows, they are spray-painting images of Lord Krishna onto the sacks along with the phrase “Yeh gai meri hai” (“This cow is mine”).
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“People see two authorities — law and religion,” says Robin Singh of Badmash Peepal. “It’s against the law to hit animals, but the law doesn’t always influence people, and we’re hoping that by appealing to a higher authority (spirituality), people will learn to be kinder to animals.”
Krishna is often depicted as a cow-herder, and he is known as the protector of cows. Badmash Peepal hope that when farmers see his image on stray cows in their fields, they will refrain from hitting them with stones or sticks, and will instead use gentler methods to chase them away.
Besides, these sweaters keep the animals warm through the cold Northern winter.
Their long-term plan — to make people more compassionate. But even Robin realises that this might be a utopian goal.
“Till then, we’d like people to become more conscious. We want them to realise that animals also feel pain, just like we do; for them to be able to say, ‘Isse bhi dard hota hai‘.”
Kindness is a central tenet of all religions. Animals, especially strays, are often defenceless and at the mercy of our whims.
We can think of few better ways of channeling the kindness principle than helping protect the powerless.
Changing mindsets isn’t easy, but Robin says that people’s behaviours can transform:
“There has been a definite change. People, who would earlier have ignored injured animals, now bring them to us so we can heal them. In fact, even I have changed. I used to think that people were apathetic — but they’re not.”
This initiative is the first of their culture jams, which they describe as public events that can make more people open to new ideas, and hopefully raise the level of public discourse.