Harris Theory of Sacred Cows
For Hindus, cows are sacred and cannot be slaughtered. They wander freely,
defecating wherever. Marvin Harris has an etic explanation for this set of
beliefs. He suggests it is economically adaptive.
Cows (and the males they produce) provide:
- oxen (castrated males) for pulling plows
- cow dung is essential cooking fuel. Cow dung equivalent of 45 million tons
of coal is burned every year.
- cow dung is fertilizer -- 340 million tons a year, permitting 3 harvests
- cows that die naturally are butchered and fed to non-hindus
- hides and horns used in leather industry
Yet they cost little:
- cows are not fed, taking no time, food or energy from people
- cows are not housed
- they produce offspring naturally