18 Jul 2004, Comments (0)

Sacred Cows

Author: Helen

A lot of us ethnocentric westerners view the Indian custom of sacred cows as a bit of a joke.

Many people find it hilarious that these creatures are allowed to wander the streets and get away with accidents and damage because of their sacred status. But isnít it equally silly that in Victoria, we allow sacred cows to roam a fragile ecosystem like the Victorian Alps, trampling peat bogs and native plants and polluting water sources in the process?

So… there must be a financial bonanza in this, right? after all, where natural treasures are being desecrated, it’s always the economic argument that’s used. Alas, same as with woodchipping, it doesn’t make economic sense either. The cattle graziers are being heavily subsidised– it only costs around $5.50 a head of cattle for around a whole seasonís grazing. This is not even enough to repair the damage the cattle cause, let alone turn a profit. I don’t want my taxes to be spent in this way.

Clearly, the sacred cows on the Alps are not only four legged. It’s another example of where taxpayer’s money spent, for instance, on public education or the arts is Sucking on the Public Tit, but a rort like this one can go on for decades because the recipients are true-blue members of the Liberal – Country party voting rump.

The mystique of the Mountain Cattleman has been invoked time and time again to keep this rort going. Us greenie basketweavers are always accused of being emotional, but whenever the cows are threatened to be kicked out of the High country, out the graziers and their families come, kitted out in the Drizabones and Akubras and riding picturesque horses through the city streets. And everyone goes… Awwwwwww. They’re a legend, mate, a legend. It’s a pantomime, and it works every time.

Bogs, unfortunately, aren’t so sexy.

We need to accept the science here- I’m all for preserving heritage, but not where it is positively damaging the environment. Also, the cattle themselves are not at the centre of the Man From Snowy River legend. It’s all about the horsemanship (well, I think the huts are nice too.) The mountain cattlepersons, the ones who really want to take their legend into the future, should move into the horse industry. And, dare I say it, the tourist industry.

At a time when water is becoming a national issue it’s simply madness to allow the systematic pollution of water sources.

The latest desperate argument, attempting to capitalise on recent bushfires (ìAlpine grazing reduces blazingî) has been shown to be a furphy both in the report of the Inquiry into the 2000-2003 Victorian Bushfires (State Goverment of Victoria) and by experiments carried out by Melbourne University. Quite simply, the Australian ecosystem is not set up for hoofed animals. Cows are hoofed animals. It’s time for the eviction, guys.

The Alpine Grazing taskforce is due to report back to the Minister at the end of July.

Comments (0)

  • Tim says:

    DN Jha has a book called the Myth of the Holy Cow. Makes a pretty good case that the ‘sacred cow’ thing is a tool of fundamentalism (esp. directed against Islam) and that cow eating is supported in various Hindu holy texts. I’m no expert but as I say, he makes what seems like a pretty good case.

  • carolinkus says:

    They banned horses from the High Country didn’t they? (or ‘culled’ them). So why keep the cows? High Country brumbies werent’ (as far as I know) necessarily owned by anyone and the only immediate income they could generate was as dog food.

    As we know its scandalous to come between farmers and their income.

  • Greg says:

    There are so many good reasons for changing ranching and grazing practices, not least of which are the fundamental environmental ones you raise, but while I acknowledge that arts funding by the government does put artists on the public teat, the level of funding is no match for grants to farmers, or even to multi-national corporations (some of which themselves have a hand in how farming is practiced and funded), so I have to object to the equivalence you suggest. Means testing could be applied to farmers to painters to playwrights to automobile manufacturers, but will only work if the means tests include more than income, economic viability, proximity to “underutilised” public land, or whether employment will be sustained. Cattle damage the environment so extensively and at such broad cost to the public that there can be no benefit to outweigh the perceived gains, even leaving aside the “feed the world” argument. Theatre, novels and poetry, paintings and sculpture enhance our lives intangibly, but indisputably.

  • Helen says:

    Greg, I thought my para 4 was clearly about the sort of thing the right-wing columnists always come out with – “sucking on the public tit” is Paddy, if I remember rightly– not my own opinion. What I mean is, there are numerous putdowns in the mainstream media whenever artists get a grant, but there’s scant mention of subsidies like these.

  • Ishtiaque says:

    An argument in response the arts/public tit comments is that the government should not subsidise an activity that causes harm to the community. Cattle grazing in the alps clearly does do damage to the community – it destroys the environment, causes direct pollution to our waterways (during a drought) and any intelligent person can guess that, most likely, it will have other far-ranging and subtle effects. Cf, the arts. Well, maybe some of the singers from Australian Idol do cause some level of pain to the public, but by and large, the arts do not cause environmental degradation, threaten Australia’s future viability, etc, etc…

  • anthony says:

    Appreciated the rump joke and even my old man the (akubraless) farmer gets a bit of a chuckle out of socialising losses and privatising profits.

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