Saved From The Slaughterhouse
Pa. Sanctuary Saves Cows From Slaughter 
June 6, 2003
Filed at 3:44 p.m. ET 

BANGOR, Pa. (AP) -- Down an unmarked dirt road in a hilly
corner of eastern Pennsylvania, Sankar Sastri calls out to
his nine cows who, after a moment, charge around an old
stone fence and romp around Sastri like children at play. 

``They're all happy today,'' the former engineering
technology professor says. 

They have good reason to be. The cows live on Sastri's
Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary, one of a scattered web of safe
havens across the country protecting the animals from
slaughter. Cows are considered holy by Hindus and adored by
some animal lovers. 

On a recent soggy afternoon, standing beside his
century-old barn while wearing a mud-caked New York Yankees
cap, Sastri moved among the cows, calling them by name. 

``This is Sita. She's very loving. Look at the beautiful
blue eyes,'' said Sastri, who moved to New York from India
in 1964. ``We say the cow is like a second mother to us.
You wouldn't send your mother to slaughter, would you?'' 

In India, cows are a religious and practical cornerstone of
life. Milk is used for nourishment, dung for fuel and cow
urine for medicinal purposes. And to Hindus, cows are to be
protected not eaten. 

Sastri's quiet, 42-acre sanctuary, also home to a tailless
cat and a blind and deaf dog, became a solution to a legal
battle in Angelica, N.Y., 250 miles northwest of Bangor. 

Stephen Voith, his wife, Linda, and the family's two
children are followers of a form of Krishna Consciousness,
whose followers protect cows. 

A court this week told the family it cannot keep cows on
its village property because of zoning rules. The Voiths,
their four cows included, are soon moving to Sastri's

Voith believes the court decision amounts to religious
persecution. He said the family was not popular in the
small farming community. In his front yard was a sign that
read ``Krishna Bhaktivedanta Sustain-a-bull and Wholly Cow
Protection Society.'' 

For Indians and followers of Hinduism, cows have a
historical and cultural sanctity not easily understood in
the West, said George Weckman, a professor who teaches a
course in Hinduism at Ohio University. 

Cows are holy in ancient religious texts and stories. Above
that, Weckman said, they have become ingrained in the
thoughts of Hindus. 

Cow sanctuaries dot the country. An Adopt-A-Cow farm in
Port Royal, Pa., one sustained by donations of animal
lovers and Hindus, houses 38 cows. A sanctuary in Carriere,
Miss., houses 132, according to its Web site. 

In Moundsville, W.Va., 24 cows are protected on a 160-acre
farm run by William Dove, also known as Balabhadra das. He
incorporated the farm as the International Society for Cow

``Many of my neighbors are cattle ranchers, but we're all
friends,'' Dove said. ``They have their lifestyle and we
have our lifestyle.'' 

Dove bought his farm from the New Vrindaban Community, a
nearby religious center with more than 100 cows. 

Cows have won the hearts of non-Hindus as well. 

Tacreiter, who grew up loving dogs, runs a 13-cow sanctuary
in Shiloh, N.J., a project she started after working on a
dairy farm. 

``I met the cows and I was just wowed by them,'' said
Tacreiter, 50. 

Tacreiter said she thinks of cows as people in the sense
that dogs are sometimes considered family members. To
support herself and the farm, she makes and sells
``cowches,'' life-sized, cow-like floor pillows. 

If Tacreiter hears that someone thinks she's going to
extremes for the cows, she invites that person to her farm.
``As soon as they meet the cows, they get it,'' she said. 

Back at the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary, Sastri's eyes dance as
he watches the cows wander away. He wished more people knew
them as well as he does. 

``They only see them as meat,'' he said. ``Animals have a
soul, personality, they interact. Unfortunately people
don't see that.''


On the Net: 

International Society for Cow Protection: 

Helga's Cowches: 

New Vrindaban