Modern society has its share of problems.
While I’m grateful for running water, flush toilets, and the internet, we also live in a world full of suffering, disease, torture, and anxiety.
About one in nine people on earth suffer from starvation, with most of them living in the developing world. One in four children are stunted, and in parts of the developing world this statistic can rise to one in three.
Meanwhile in the West, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, which accounts for one in four deaths.
Cancer cases have increased dramatically over the last few decades and are only expected to increase, with the WHO expecting rates to rise 57% in the next 20 years.
We are considered lucky if we live to see 85.
Most people consider many of the issues we face today (pollution, illness, poverty, etc.) to be modern problems expected to be faced by an industrializing world, but the truth behind why we face all these seemingly unconnected issues is simple, and it was predicted in an ancient Indian scripture known as The Srimad Bhagavatam (otherwise known as The Bhagavat Purana) thousands of years ago.
According to The Srimad Bhagavatam, civilization is cyclical, and our current age of Kali Yuga is known as the Dark Age, where disease, poverty, and corruption are to be expected. It began with cow killing.
In a lecture on The Srimad Bhagavatam given on January 1, 1974 in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada (the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON) said that “Kali began with animal killing” when discussing a story in the Bhagavatam.
The story was about a low-class man who was dressed as a king, who was beating a beautiful, lotus-like bull. The bull, which had three of his legs cut off, was so afraid that it was trembling and urinating. When King Parikshit, who was ruling India at the time, spotted the man, he threatened to kill him for animal abuse. But, the man then revealed himself as Kali personified.
In the Bhagavatam (1.17), it is revealed that the bull is dharma (spiritual duty) personified, and the four legs of dharma are austerity, cleanliness, mercy, and truthfulness. In Kali Yuga, the other limbs have been dismembered so that only truth remains, and even that is shaky. The beginnings of Kali Yuga as described in this book reflect the way that our current society has been degraded by the mistreatment of cows and other animals, as cow protection is the duty of any civilized society.
Kali’s flogging of the one-legged bull happens to millions of cows every single day in modern slaughterhouses around the world, where they are beaten into a line, bolted, and dismembered.
The Bhagavatam also contains predictions about life in the Age of Kali, which ring true to the issues our society faces today:
- “Filling the belly will become the goal of life” (SB 12.2.6)
- “One who is audacious will be accepted as truthful” (SB 12.2.6)
- “As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power” (SB 12.2.7)
- “Harassed by famine and excessive taxes, people will resort to eating leaves, roots, flesh, wild honey, fruits, flowers and seeds. Struck by drought, they will become completely ruined” (SB 12.2.9)
- “Cows will be abandoned or killed when they stop giving milk” (SB 12.3.36)
The Srimad Bhagavatam is more than an old book of metaphorical fables; it is a spiritually powerful ancient work that has literally predicted the perils of modern life before they began. Today, most people are more concerned with finding their next meal than they are with spiritual development, not only because of poverty but because of a materialistic, consumer culture that values spending first and thinking later—an attitude that has put the planet into its current dire position. People are also easily manipulated by misleading rhetoric from the media. Whoever is the loudest and the crassest is applauded for being the most truthful, even if they aren’t saying anything insightful. The world is overpopulated and run by corrupt leaders who overtax the population. Many countries suffer from famine due to poverty, or drought and other forms of environmental disasters. All of these things are directly connected to cow killing, the root of all evil.
The documentary Cowspiracy discusses the devastating effect animal agriculture has on our planet. It is responsible for 51% of greenhouse gases (more than the transportation sector) and is changing the climate of our planet. The rain forest is being clear cut at an alarming rate to create grazing grounds for cattle and to grow crops to feed them, even though it is estimated that this results in the loss of over 100 wildlife species in the Amazon every day.
The media at large ignores the topic of cow killing and the impact that it has. While Greenpeace encourages people to bike to work and UNICEF strives to raise money to feed children in developing nations, most organizations ignore the fact that we already produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, yet 82% of starving children live in countries where that food is grown to feed animals, creating more pollution than the earth can sustainably bear. Most of these animals will then end up in the bellies of Westerners, whose leading cause of death is heart disease. Our current system of animal exploitation is not only costing these animals their lives, but it’s also destroying the planet and our health as well.
In the purport of the Bhagavatam, 1.4.9, Srila Prabhupada says “To kill cows means to end human civilization.” The reason that cow protection is heralded as the basis of civilization according to Vedic scriptures is because of the cow’s motherly, giving nature. Cows are a symbol of a society’s wealth because they provide valuable products such as milk and other dairy products, manure to fertilize the soil and build fires, and urine for religious rituals and a farmer’s natural pest repellent.
I read a post in an animal rights group on Facebook the other day about a farmer who was looking for a sanctuary to adopt his family’s dairy cow, whom he obviously saw as a burden once she stopped feeding him and his loved ones. Apparently, the cow was getting too old to produce milk, but the farmer felt guilty selling it to a slaughterhouse, and instead decided to put the responsibility of taking care of her onto the backs of sympathetic animal rights supporters.
While I appreciate that he didn’t try to make a few hundred dollars by having her slaughtered, as most farmers do, that he wanted to give her away in the first place says something about our society. Rather than value cows for what they give and considering them a part of the family (like the way that we see our pets), cows are looked at as commodities to be used. They are not considered valuable for their milk, urine, and dung, but for their milk, flesh, and hide. As the Bhagavatam predicted, in today’s society, cows are abandoned (if they’re lucky) or in most cases, killed, when they stop giving milk.
The good news is that there are things that we can do to help our planet. Adopting a vegetarian diet may seem like a small step, but it will make a world of difference for the animals you save. On the conservative end, it is still estimated that vegetarians save over 100 animals a year. To put this into perspective, if you live to be 85, and you start a vegetarian diet when you’re 25, that’s at least 6,000 animals. In 2014, the USDA reported that 400 million fewer animals were killed because of people eating less meat.
If we really wanted to, we could end world hunger tomorrow. While that’s not going to happen, we can still do our part to make the world a better place for as long as we’re on it.