"In view of immense benefit of the cow, hugging the cow will bring emotional richness, hence will increase our individual and collective happiness. Therefore, all the cow lovers may also celebrate the February 14 as Cow Hug Day keeping in mind the importance of mother cow and make life happy and full of positive energy."
— Animal Welfare Board of India
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) on Monday issued an appeal to the public to hug cows on Valentine's Day on February 14.
Becoming the latest addition to the list of names changed to oestensibly uphold the Indian heritage, the AWBI dubbed the Valentine's Day as Cow Hug Day at the direction of the Union government.
The AWBI in a letter on its website said hugging cows would bring happiness and positivity. This is the latest in the long list of claims over cows in recent years which have ranged from the promotion of cow urine as a medicine to declaring cow dung as protection against radiation.
The AWBI is a statutory body under the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying of the Union government. Its main function is to advise legal provisions for animal welfare. However, it has been reported in recent years that AWBI under the Narendra Modi government has had a visible shift towards cow protection — a reflection of the rise of cow as a political animal.
The Hindu Right has hailed cow protection as synonymous to Indian culture. This finds echoes in the AWBI letter. The letter said "Vedic traditions are almost on the verge of extinction" under the "dazzle of Western civilisation". The Cow Hug Day thus brings together two issues dear to the Hindu Right. One, the cow. Two, opposition to Valentine's Day which it sees as a Western encroachment of Indian values.
The AWBI's letter said, "In view of immense benefit of the cow, hugging the cow will bring emotional richness, hence will increase our individual and collective happiness. Therefore, all the cow lovers may also celebrate the February 14 as Cow Hug day keeping in mind the importance of mother cow and make life happy and full of positive energy."
The push for cow as well as the public observation of certain days in Hindu terminology have been running themes lately. Earlier, the Modi government began marking 25 December —Christmas— as Good Governance Day to mark the birth anniversary of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Hindu ecosystem has long been pushing for Tulsi Tiwas and Matra-Pitru Pujan Diwas on Christmas and Valentine's Day.
In Outlook's February 6, 2023 issue titled Cow Prescription, we explored the emergence of cow as a political animal and what's the idea of a holy cow that has dominated much of the bovine discourse in recent years.
Omar Rashid in his story explores the relationship between the state-enforced cow protection and vigiliantism by the Hindu Right. He noted in his story that while cow is definitely an animal essential for the rural economy, it has transformed into a symbol of distress for both Muslims and Hindus.
Rakhi Bose in her story writes about the journey of cow from an animal to a holy entity. She looks at history, not the one preached by WhatsApp University but real textual evidence, to track the trajectory of the cow from a milch cattle that was eaten and sacrificed to a divine entity.
Haima Deshpande in her story explores the commercialisation of cow. Her story explores how markets across the country are being flooded by products made from cow urine and dung which are claimed to cure debilitating diseases like cancer without any scientific evidence.
Abhik Bhattacharya in her story explores the adivasis' perception of cow. The story explores how the adivasis don’t milch cows for milk, but leave it for their calves to grow stronger to help them in cultivating their fields. The story also explores how adivasis also celebrate buffalo along with cow as their traditional animals.
Shahina KK reports about Kerala that has no polarised politics over cow — in sharp contrast to North India.
In an interview with Omar Rashid, former Animal Welfare Board of India SP Gupta advocated the practice of cow-cuddling. He advocated for research on cows to explore their therapeutic properties.