A good life makes for happy cows at Hare Krishna farm

Milked by hand, allowed to breed naturally and free from the threat of slaughter, the cows at Gokul farm near London could be possibly the happiest in Britain.

The 44 animals are owned by a community of Hare Krishnas, who live on the site at Aldenham bequeathed by Beatles guitarist George Harrison.

As believers of a branch of Hinduism, the Hare Krishnas view cows as sacred and treat them with respect, milking them by hand for the animals' comfort and allowing them to calve less intensively than in industrial farms.

Crucially, the community members are also vegetarian, guaranteeing that the cows are at no risk of slaughter.

"They are very sensitive animals. It's like if you have a dog - how you feel, the dog senses that," said Shyamasundara Das, the head of the farm at Aldenham.

"Here, because we have an atmosphere of cow care, the animals themselves are a lot more peaceful and tranquil, and maybe it's also because there is no sense that they are going to be killed by us."

Despite occasional massages, careful milking twice a day, and the spacious living quarters - the community has recently installed new cowsheds in French oak - the farm is not the bovine equivalent of a five-star hotel.

The cattle pay their way by pulling carts to take groups of school children or young families around the farm, as well as powering a traditional mill to grind the cereal that feeds the cows.

The farm is built next to the Bhaktivedanta Manor, which Harrison donated to the Hare Krishna movement in the early 1970s and is now their British base.

The presence of the sacred cows adds a spiritual element and brings the community closer to the Hindu ideal of a simple life in harmony with nature.

"Krishna is always seen surrounded by cows. He was a cow herd boy 5,000 years ago in India," said Kripamoya Das, a Hare Krishna priest.

There is also a more practical link between the believers and the cows.

The flowers used to decorate statues in the temple next to the manor, where barefoot believers pray morning, noon and night, are fed to the cows once they begin to droop, as a thank you for all their hard work.

Although their humane approach means that calves are allowed to continue suckling their mothers' milk for far longer than in industrial farms, the cows at Gokul still produce a large amount of milk.

At the moment this is drunk only by the community at Aldenham, but Shyamasundara Das is keen to begin selling it the world outside.

However, the cost of such a feel-good product is a barrier. The milk currently costs about three pounds (3.5 euros, 4.7 dollars) a litre and, pending the approval of regulators, would be sold at a hefty 3.5 pounds a litre, making it perhaps the most expensive cow's milk in Europe.

And is it any better than normal milk?

Mark Gardener, a vet who regularly visits Gokul farm, won't say either way - although he is confident that the cows here are likely to be happier.

"Normally in a dairy farm each cow has to justify his position" by having calves every few months or producing sufficient milk, and if they don't they will be sent to slaughter, he said.

"Whereas here the cows aren't under that pressure."

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

    £300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

    KS1 Teacher

    £95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

    HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

    £32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster