On February 6, 2023, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) appealed to the government to celebrate February 14, which is worldwide celebrated as Valentine’s day, as “Cow Hug Day”. This appeal was supported by the government which introduced this bill in the Lok Sabha.
The AWBI claimed that this would bring “emotional richness” and increase “individual and collective happiness”. In other words, this was AWBI’s way to criticize “the dazzle of western culture”. The AWBI said that “ the Vedic traditions are almost on the verge of extinction due to the progress of western culture over time” and further added that “the dazzle of western culture has made our physical culture and heritage almost forgotten”
In Indian culture, cows are considered sacred by the Hindu population of India, a symbol of both earth and the divine. As the AWBI appeal stated, “the cow is the backbone of Indian culture and rural economy, sustains our life, represents cattle wealth and biodiversity.”
However, this move backfired when in the same week, on February 10, the government decided to withdraw this appeal due to the surge in internet memes, cartoons, and jokes about how absurd this was and the importance of consent. The government made a statement about withdrawing this appeal because of the memes on the internet. The secretary of AWBI, S.K Dutta said in a fresh circular issued on Friday that the decision to withdraw came after directions from the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying industries. The government says that this is the primary reason of the withdrawal of the appeal.
The Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying Parshottam Rupala supported such a move and said on Thursday that the country has a tradition of worshipping cows. However, farmers’ organizations and trade unions questioned the logic of such an appeal that claimed to hug cows will bring “emotional richness” and will increase “individual and collective happiness.”
Mr. Dutta said in the new circular: “As directed by the Competent Authority and Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying, the appeal issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India for the celebration of ‘Cow Hug Day’ on February 14, 2023 stands withdrawn.”
Following the repeal, two congress party MPs took to Twitter to add to the internet memes. Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh asked, “who had ‘moo-ted’ the idea in the first place”. Shashi Tharoor, a congress MP tweeted “ ‘let them hug their guy’ instruction may have been misinterpreted as ‘gaay’ (translates to the cow in Hindi).” Mr. Tharoor continued with other jokes such as, "was the Government cow-ed by the jokes made at its expense or was it merely cow-ardice? My guess is the original appeal was an oral instruction: ‘Valentine's Day: let them hug their guy’ and ‘the last word was misheard by a HindiRashtravadi as gaay’."
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