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In India, I saw many cows roaming freely in the city. They were feasting on plastic bags. Isn't this ironic?

On one hand, Hindus seem to accept that humans shouldn't harm cows. Does this not imply that humans should also protect cows from harm (e.g. death from not being able to digest plastic)?

Are there any sins related to it according to scriptures?

cows and plastic bags

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    although this is a great question, it doesn't seem to be suitable on this site. Could you rephrase this question? – Vineet Menon Jun 22 '14 at 5:53
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    @VineetMenon Could you explain why you think it is not suitable? Otherwise I don't really know how to rephrase it. I know that Hinduism tells us not to harm cows and am asking whether it also tells us to protect cows from harm. FWIW, this question already received two conflicting answers. – Earthliŋ Jun 22 '14 at 11:56
  • ..because it's not really related to Hinduism. Revering cows is a religious thing, but plastic and garbage is a cultural thing. It's like asking 'Since Christianity prohibits pre-marital sex, why is Westerners so much having pre-marital sex?' – Vineet Menon Jun 22 '14 at 12:20
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    I don't think this is a good analogy, since I'm asking "does Hinduism tell us to also protect cows, or only not to harm cows?". The plastic bags are only my personal reason for asking this question. – Earthliŋ Jun 22 '14 at 12:27
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    Good question whether the platform is appropriate or not. It is Indians' belief that the society prospers only when cow "gO" and sattvic scholars "brAhmaNa" are protected. So one should do all they can to protect the cow. – user1195 Feb 11 '15 at 2:40
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Correct, the ancient Vedic culture actively advocates and promotes cow protection. There are a few reasons for why the cow is considered holy:

  • Traditional Deity worship required pancagavya, or five ingredients, which are cow dung, cow urine, milk, ghee, and curd. Cow dung has antiseptic properties, cow urine has medicinal properties, milk is nutritious, ghee is required for fire yajnas, and curd is made into many preparations which are then offered to the Deities as part of worship.
  • Traditional Vedic culture also lists the cow as one of the seven mothers.
  • Krishna is worshiped as protector of the cows by Vedic mantras, specifically:

    namo brahmanya devaya go-brahmana hitaya ca jagad-dhitaya krsnaya govindaya no namaha

Unfortunately, there is little, if any, environmental regulations in India, and cows are often neglected as well.

I know in Vrindavana, a prominent holy place, there has been an active campaign to stop the use of all plastic bags within the city, and there are a few organizations which take in stray cows and rehabilitate them.

Plastic bags now banned in Vrindavana
Care for Cows: rescuing abandoned cows in Vrindavana

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It's also related to my other answer.

According to one version of Pushkar yajna story, because of absence of Savitri for the yajna, Brahma married Gurjar girl, Gayatri. Gayatri got purified by Cow's womb to be worthy to be wife of Brahma. After Savitri ( Srasvati in some versions) arrival, she cursed everyone responsible of yajna. She also cursed Cow to get unholy waste as food in Kaliyuga.

Endowed by the powers of yajna, Gayatri diluted Savitri's curse, and said that whatever Cow will eat in Kaliyuga, she will still treated as holy.

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