‘Hug a cow’ for Valentine’s Day in India

NEW DELHI, 9 Feb 2023:

The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a government body, is aiming to replace Valentine’s Day with an occasion to hug cows – considered sacred in Hinduism – and thus counter the day-long celebration of love often seen as western in India and opposed by Hindu hardliners.

“We want people to be encouraged towards our culture and not forget it; if they want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, they should celebrate it as cow hug day,” proposed Prachi Jain, assistant secretary of the Board.

Therefore, the organisation, founded by the Indian government in 1962, has issued a call this week to defend the tradition of the Vedas – holy texts of Hinduism – which they claimed were “on the verge of extinction due to the progress of western culture over time.”

The AWBI circular describes cows as the “backbone of Indian culture and rural economy” and claimed that hugging the cow has “enormous benefits” as it increases “emotional and physical happiness.”

Jain said that decision to turn Feb 14 into “cow hug day” was taken on the directions of the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy.

The concept is not a novel idea in itself, being similar to the “koe knuffelen” in the Netherlands – which consists of embracing cows and caressing and brushing them, and is said to have mental health benefits.

On the other hand, in India St Valentine’s Day has faced attacks and boycotts by the Hindu right-wing and religious groups – which consider it foreign and have in the past formed moral policing squads to stop young lovers from celebrating the day.

However, such attacks have reduced in recent years, in sync with V-Day’s growing popularity in cities of the conservative country.