SAN TAN VALLEY – Once most cows stop producing milk, their owners often ship them off to the slaughterhouse.
That’s if Naren Koka doesn’t get to the cows first.
“The cows are just like animals, just like dogs and cats, and we know how precious they are for us,” said Koka, the president of Goshala, an East Valley group dedicated to saving cows. “We treat them like our children. Same way, cows are also like that.”
Goshala, which means “shelter for cows” in Sanskrit, is a nonprofit organization that saves cows from going to the slaughterhouse by giving them a permanent home. The group, which houses five cows on a farm in the San Tan Valley, serves spiritual, philanthropic and educational purposes.
Cows are sacred animals in Hinduism for their ability to produce milk. Killing one, or even allowing someone else to kill a cow, is considered a sin.
“You have used the good part, which is milk, and then you have sent the cow to the slaughterhouse,” said Prayag Misra, a volunteer with Goshala. “So that economy is a selfish economy because you have taken good use of it, but you are not able to provide peace, love to the animal who supported you.”
Milk from cows in danger of going to the slaughterhouse also is prohibited in Hindu worship, so the shelter provides a place where religious groups or individuals can obtain “ahimsa” – the idea of non-violence for all living things – milk.
The shelter is not just for Hindus, Misra said. Goshala donates the milk and dung produced by the cows to community members, and it allows people looking for animal therapy to visit.
The organization’s top priority is to educate the public on the benefits of vegetarianism and the importance of being kind to all animals.
“As human beings, we have more responsibility in the planet,” Koka said. “We feel that we are higher animals actually. We are also like them, so we have to take the responsibility – take the higher position – of protecting them, saving them, and not destroy the planet.”