Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

2019 Edition
| Editors: David M. Kaplan

South Asia and Cow Protectionism

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1179-9_520

The cow is viewed as a creature of special importance among several religious and cultural traditions in South Asia. Cow protectionism is practiced in India, Nepal, Burma, and Sri Lanka. The veneration of the cow also traverses religious denomination and cows are valued within both Buddhist and Hindu communities. The origin of cow protectionism in South Asia derives to a large extent from a sense of religious obligation, though prudential reasoning has also played an important role in the promotion of cow welfare.

Among many Hindus in India, cows are regarded as sacred objects that should not be interfered with, let alone slaughtered. The slaughter of cows is outlawed, or severely limited, in most states in India, and there are severe penalties for those who unjustifiably kill them. There are even some historical instances where cow slaughter was made a capital offense (McLane 1977). The penalty in modern Indian states is, of course, much less severe.

This special treatment of cows has...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alsdorf, L. (2010). The history of vegetarianism and cow-veneration in India. London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  2. Bastin, R. (2002). The domain of constant excess: Plural worship at the Munnesvaram temples in Sri Lanka. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  3. Bond, G. (1992). The Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka: Religious tradition, reinterpretation and response. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.Google Scholar
  4. Bonnefoy, Y., & Donniger, W. (1993). Asian mythologies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Braun, E. (2013). The birth of insight: Meditation, modern Buddhism and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, N.. (1964). The sanctity of the cow in Hinduism. The Economic Weekly.Google Scholar
  7. Crooke, W. (1912). The veneration of the cow in India. Folklore, 23(2), 275–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cush, D., Robinson, C., & York, M. (Eds.). (2008). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  9. Fuller, C. J. (2004). The camphor flame: Popular Hinduism and society in India. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gombrich, R. (1991). Buddhist precept and practice: Traditional Buddhism in the rural highlands of Ceylon. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publisher.Google Scholar
  11. Gombrich, R., & Obeyesekere, G. (1988). Buddhism transformed: Religious change in Sri Lanka. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gough, K. (1981). Rural society in southeast India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Jayawardena, K. (1970). Economic and political factors in the 1915 riots. The Journal of Asian Studies, 29(2), 223–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jha, D. N. (2002). The myth of the holy cow. London/New York: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  15. Kannagara, A. P. (1984). The riots of 1915 in Sri Lanka. Past and Present, 102(1), 130–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Knox, R. (1958). An historical relation of the island Ceylon in the East Indies. Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia: Dodo Press.Google Scholar
  17. Lipner, J. (2010). Hindus: Their religious beliefs and practices. Routledge/Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  18. McLane, J. R. (1977). Indian nationalism and the early congress. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Michaels, A. (2004). The king and cow: On a crucial symbol of Hinduization in Nepal. In D. N. Gellner, J. Pfaff-Czarnecka, & J. Whelpton (Eds.), Nationalism and ethnicity in a Hindu kingdom. London: Routledge/Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  20. Norman, K. R., Trans. (2006). The group of discourses (Sutta Nipāta). Lancaster: Pali Text Society.Google Scholar
  21. Obeyesekere, G. (1984). Cult of the goddess Pattini. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  22. Pieris, P. E. (1920). Ceylon and the Portuguese, 1505–1658. Colombo: Ceylon Civil Service.Google Scholar
  23. Robert, B., & Lopez, D. (2014). The Princeton dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Rosen, S. (2004). Holy cow: The Hare Krishna contributions to vegetarianism & animal rights. New York: Lantern Books.Google Scholar
  25. Smith, B. K. (1990). Eaters, food, and social hierarchy in ancient India: A dietary guide to a revolution of values. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 58(2), 177–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Spiro, M. (1982). Buddhism and society: A great tradition and its Burmese vicissitudes. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. Stewart, J. J. (2013). Cow protection in sinhala Buddhist Sri Lanka. Journal of the Oriental Society of Australia, 45, 19.Google Scholar
  28. Stewart, J. J. (2014). Muslim-Buddhist conflict in contemporary Sri Lanka. South Asia Research, 34(3), 241–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Stewart, J. J. (2015). Vegetarianism and animal ethics in contemporary Buddhism. Abingdon: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ven der Veer, P. (1994). Religious nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TasmaniaHobartAustralia