Cow vigilantism: Fanaticism even for a good cause blinds people to the goodness of the cause
The recent incident in Gujarat of what has been called “cow vigilantism” has attracted widespread condemnation. While cows are immensely sacred for us, the followers of the Vedic tradition, most people in today’s world don’t share this sentiment. In fact, many find our caring for cows so incomprehensible that the term “holy cow” has come to be used as an informal expression of astonishment or disbelief. In an increasingly post-modern world, trying to impose one’s values on others backfires badly, even if those values are valid and valuable.
I am reminded of how the tide turned decisively against the pro-life group in the the battle against the legalization of abortion. While many consider the US court decision in the Roe vs Wade case the defining defeat in this battle, the loss therein was largely legal. In the public eye, the battle was lost when some Christian extremists killed some doctors who regularly performed abortions. By that abortion vigilantism, the anti-abortion campaign came to be associated with right-wing religion. Totally drowned out were the strong philosophical and even scientific arguments supporting the fact that the embryo is essentially human and deserves the human right to life.
Tragically, the movement for cow protection in India seems to be headed towards similar alienation, with the many financial and social benefits of cow protection not even being considered amidst the fear and furore about right-wing religion.
Nowadays, attempting any form of imposition is almost certain to backfire — spreading awareness about the rationale for cow protection is the only feasible way ahead.