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THE HINDU HOLY COW AND THE AMERICAN ANIMAL: A CRITICAL COMPARISON OF HUMAN-ANIMAL RELATIONSHIP

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Painting two grand stories, I set out to compare human-animal relationships, as realized by the Holy Cow among Hindus in India and stock and pet animals among people in America. The goal of these comparisons is to determine in what

Painting two grand stories, I set out to compare human-animal relationships, as realized by the Holy Cow among Hindus in India and stock and pet animals among people in America. The goal of these comparisons is to determine in what ways the relationships that Indians and Americans have towards animals can be made relevant to one another. This is done by concentrating on how the human perceptions of animals are informed by religious, political, and economic contexts, as well as how these perceptions inform the social costs of human-animal relationships within a society, as it pertains to both animals and humans. What I find is that the human-animal relationships are different in India and in America, but reveal similar tensions in both countries. In India, the Hindu Holy Cow is deified above the status of human, yet its embodiment of the Hindu cosmos and Hindu nationalist identity does not come without a cost for India as a society and nation. The American human-animal relationship is also caught in tension between two big perspectives. One, which is best exemplified by the stock cow, takes animals to be things of consumption, the other, which is best exemplified by the pet, makes animals into objects of anthropomorphism. Ultimately, the distinguished perspectives in India and America reveal divergent mechanisms, but comparable costs for humans and animals in both societies.

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2020-05