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Minimum Cow Protection Standards ISKCON LAW 507

Endorsed by the Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture.

Approved by ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission, March 1999.

The following is a list of cow protection standards which is now ISKCON Law 507. Most of the standards have been discussed and formulated on the COM cow conference mostly by devotees who have had many years of experience caring for cows and/or the land; USA: ISCOWP (Balabhadra das & Chayadevi dasi), Madhava Gosh das, Ranaka das (New Vrndavana), Hare Krsna dasi (BTG & ISKCON Farm Research Committee), Rohita das, Dvibhuja das (New Talavan), Suresvara das (ACBSP, ISKCON Farm Research Committee), Anuttama das (ISKCON Communications), England: Radha Krsna das (ACBSP), Syamasundara das (Bhaktivedanta Manor), France: Pitavas das & Aradhya dasi, Bangladesh: Nistula das, Serbia: Gopal, Inc., India: Labangaltika dasi, Ekadasi das (Padayatra Secretary) and some of its other members, New Zealand: Ananta Krsna dasi


It is also significant that Vasudeva inquired about the welfare of Nanda Maharaja’s animals. The animals, and especially the cows, were protected exactly in the manner of one’s children. Vasudeva was a ksatriya, and Nanda Maharaja was a vaisya. It is the duty of the ksatriya to give protection to the citizens of mankind, and it is the duty of the vaisya to give protection to the cows. The cows are as important as the citizens. Just as the human citizens should be given all kinds of protection, so the cows also should be given full protection. -Krsna Book, Volume 1, Chapter 5


“Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled. -Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 8: Chapter 24, Text 5 Purport

The purpose of these standards is to institute a worldwide cow protection minimum standard within ISKCON. The standards represent a cooperative spirit between the devotees involved, often of diverse views, to come to a general agreement in a joint effort to help prevent any mistreatment of ISKCON cows and help develop cow protection programs that exemplify Srila Prabhupada’s vision of cow protection. ISKCON has made significant efforts to protect cows but still mistakes have been made on ISKCON farms in the past which have created present problems that will take time and effort to correct.

The Standards enacted below will assure that the current problems are rectified in the near future and similar difficulties will not arise again.

The “Recommended” is the ideal, the “Permitted” is an exception to the ideal, and “Not Allowed” is self-explanatory. These are internal requirements and they do not supersede whatever local government rules there are. We should follow the higher standard whether it be the Standards or the local government. In transportation, for instance, there are laws of inoculation that MUST be followed.

There are further issues that need to be standardized and such proposals will be presented at the GBC Mayapur GBC meetings.. Rewording and additions to the standards will be presented at each Mayapur meeting if such changes are deemed necessary by the Agriculture and Cow Protection Ministry after the standards have been in use and feedback has been ascertained.

The term “cows” is used herein to mean cows, calves, oxen, and bulls. Cows are domestic animals, not wild animals. They are dependent on the care of humans.


Recommended :

Lifetime Protection: Maintaining an animal for its full lifetime including its training and engagement in productive service. Female cows are not required to be bred (see Section 2.9), and should not do heavy work (Section 1.5).
Daily Observation of Herd: All cows should be given a daily head count and health check.
Records: Short concise records of the conditions of the cows, land, and weather should be kept on a daily basis. These records are to be used as a tool for monitoring and improving herd conditions.
Fencing: Stone walls, board fences, woven wire, living fences (except Multiflora rose), or high tensile is recommended to contain cows by creating an impenetrable border.
Safety and Security: Adequate arrangements must be provided to ensure the safety and security of the cows from theft, abuse, and maltreatment. These may include locking gates, lighting, security surveillance, restricted access, or other arrangements as per local circumstances.
Death :
A dying cow should be kept as comfortable as possible and given as much association and transcendental sound vibrations as possible. There should be access to water and food.
The calf mortality rate should be no greater than 5%, the achievable standard.

Daily Observation of Herd: For larger herds with a shortage of cowherds it is acceptable for the health check to be done weekly. Daily counting is still required.
Records: Keeping a general farm journal. Keeping breeding records of cows, parentage, and offspring.
Fencing :
Electric fencing is permitted for temporary and immediate fencing; it is especially useful for rotational grazing.
Barbed wire is permitted in areas of low pressure and where other types of fencing would be impractical to use, but should not be used where animals are concentrated.
Not Allowed

Transferring Ownership: Transferring of ownership or the use of cows where all the minimum standards aren’t observed.
Death due to the following conditions :
Failure to provide adequate feed, shelter, safety measures, and health care.
Performing euthanasia
Placing a sick cow in a situation where he/she will be trampled, eaten, frozen, etc. causing death.
Neglecting the cow while she dies. Not providing feed and water.
Calf mortality rate higher than 10%
If records are inadequate, the mortality rate can be determined retroactively by seeing how many have been milking in the last 2-3 years and determining how many of their calves are still alive.
Failure to count cows daily. Daily counting reduces the loss of cows to rustling and wandering off.
Fencing: Failure to provide adequate fencing to control animals’ movement. There should be no barbed wire in areas where animals are concentrated and in areas of high pressure, e.g., it shouldn’t be used between a pasture and a meadow or crop field.
Safety and Security: Failure to provide adequate arrangements to ensure the safety and security of the cows as stated in #5 of recommended.
Failure to maintain appropriate herd records.

Recommended :

Devotees owning their own land and cows
Devotees owning some land and cows with access to communal rotational grazing and harvesting in order to fully provide for their cows.
A Cow/Land Trust was established to secure cow care.
Breeding is not to exceed the carrying capacity of the land.

Centralized goshalla is operated by a few devotees where there is an abundant congregation to support the goshalla and a Cow/Land Trust to secure the cow care and a training program for new cowherds.
Small privately owned family farms working with the Cow/Land Trust.
Both follow breeding programs maintaining the proper proportion of animals to land capacity.
Not Allowed

Maintaining a centralized goshalla without appropriate manpower, training, congregational support, and Cow/Land Trust.
Breeding without consideration for land capacity


Winter Shelter :
All cows should have access to shelter from the wind, rain, and snow. An open barn or shed facing away from the direction of the prevailing winds is much preferred to a closed building. Many diseases thrive in the warm, humid environment found in some closed buildings. Drafts should be prevented as much as possible in open buildings.
Adjoining outside exercise lot.
Clean water, feed, and vegetarian salt available at all times.
Summer Shelter :
All cows should have access to shade from the sun, either in tree shade or housing.
All feed must be fed so as to prevent a mixture with manure.
All shelters should have access to sunlight and ventilation.
All shelters should have clean floors with dry bedding to prevent problems such as hoof rot.
The use of dry bedding of some type is important. Maintaining cows on dry surfaces helps prevent many foot problems such as hoof rot.
Pens should be cleaned daily or fresh bedding added.
Pens with hard floors are preferable to muddy lots and should have a sufficient layer of bedding.
Feed aisles or mangers should be constructed within the shelter so feed can not be pulled into the area where the cows walk. Thereby preventing wastage and feed mixing with manure.

Clean rest areas with rubber bedding.
Not Allowed

Failure to provide shelter that protects against the wind, rain, and snow.
Failure to provide shade in the summer.
Failure to provide sunlight and ventilation.
Failure to provide clean feeding conditions.
Failure to provide water (also in freezing weather) and vegetarian salt.
Forcing cows to lie in sloppy, filthy pens.
Forcing calves to nurse on cows that have been lying in manure.


All cows should have pasturing facilities. Herding and intensive rotational grazing are the recommended methods of pasturing.
Diet :
Milking cows, growing and working oxen, and breeding bulls should be fed grains or high-quality supplemental feeds such as silage which should be secured to prevent overeating.
Change from one type of feed to another, especially from dry feeds to fresh feeds, should be done gradually so that bloating, which can lead to death, does not occur.
Clean water and vegetarian salt should always be available.
All feeding should be done under the supervision of the primary cowherd to ensure the health and safety of the cows.
There should be sufficient feeding space so that all animals can eat without undo stress from herd mates.
Hay or other feed should be available for all animals when natural browsing is insufficient to provide minimal nutritional requirements.

Pasturing with as much rotation of paddocks as possible.
Tethering when sufficient pasturing grounds are not available and under the following conditions:
All tethering should be supervised by primary cowherd.
There must be sufficient availability of green grass and provision for exercise.
The safety and comfort of the animal is the prime consideration. E.G., Care must be taken to guard against a cow being strangled on a rope, especially in hilly areas.
Adequate water and vegetarian salt must be available if tethered for more than a couple of hours.
If cows are being fed bhoga and prasadam scraps (not from human plates) in addition to their other feed then such feeding must be carefully monitored by the primary cowherd due to the fact that cows can become unhealthily fat on scraps, sick, or in immediate danger due to carelessly adding indigestible items such as kitchen utensils.
If grazing grounds are inadequate for the number of cows then there must be a plan to eventually provide grazing land or replenish existing land.
Not Allowed

Tethering fails to meet even the Permitted standards described above.
Total confinement.
Diet :
Feeding by-products of animal slaughter.
Feeding a diet consisting entirely of kitchen garbage and prasadam scraps.
Feeding prasadam scraps from human plates.
Feeding rotten prasadam and kitchen scraps.
Carelessly including in-feed articles that are not digestible such as garlands, kitchen utensils, floor sweepings, or burnt food such as burnt chaunces, burnt custard.
Feeding moldy hay.
Throwing cow’s hay and grains on the ground where they can walk on it and pass stool on it. (refer to 3b & 6 of Standard 3 Shelter).
Failure to follow 2a through 2f of recommended.


Training Cows :
Cows should be trained by voice commands for the purpose of safety during public events, every day health checks, etc.
All cows should be given names.
Milking :
Milking should be done by hand by trained experienced milkers who regularly milk the same cow(s).
Cows should be brushed daily, and udder washed before milking
A Calf and Mother :
A calf and its mother should have as much association as possible, especially in the calf’s first week, to acquire the essential colostrum.
There must be careful consideration to the eating habits of the calf so that overeating does not occur leading to scours (diarrhea) which can lead to death. Overeating can be prevented by limiting access to the udder of the mother.
Weaning must be gradual, totally achieved no sooner than 3 months with the option of 6 months or longer.
During the weaning process a sweetened grain with the proper balanced ration for a young calf, first cutting, nonstemmy hay, and clean water should be available for access by the calf.
Caution should be taken against putting calves on pasture too early which can cause bloat (which can be fatal).
The primary cowherd should be supervising and instructing the treatment of the calf and mother.

Training Cows: Cows can be trained to lead by halter or gentle herding techniques. This is for safety and health checks, not working as oxen. However light work is allowed for non-lactating cows and must be supervised by the primary cowherd.
Milking: Milking should be done by hand.
A Calf and Mother :
Calves may be bottle-fed colostrum for the first few days and later on milk.
A plan must be presented to correct bottle feeding allowing for new calves in the herd to be with their mothers.
Gradual weaning can be prior to 6 months If the calf’s coat changes color or it loses interest in milk (ruling out illness).
Not Allowed

Ill Treatment: Failure to develop a personal relationship with a cow leading to excessive use of whips, prods, beating, rough treatment, and violence to the animal.
Milking :
Milking by hand in which the following occurs: pinch, pull, or any other action that may result in the animal becoming disturbed.
Milking by machine. This is not acceptable and can only be done in a crisis situation, e.g., lack of sufficient cowherds. A plan to correct the crisis situation must be presented.
Failure to provide all calves access to mother’s milk either directly from the cow or by milk bottle.
Feeding calves milk replacement or by the bucket method.
Working cows as oxen except in dire emergencies.


Training oxen should begin at 2-4 months to develop a relationship of love and trust. No work is
done at this time due to the softness of bones as well as other reasons.
Training should be by voice commands or Indian technique of pierced nose with rope halter.
All oxen should be given names.

Training at a later age but still developing a relationship of love and trust.
Not Allowed

Using whips excessively, beating, rough treatment, and violence to the oxen.

(Such programs represent ISKCON to the public. If there is an unfortunate incident it is ISKCON that can be sued and attacked, not the individuals handling the animals.)


Before traveling, all oxen must be well trained with proven working reliability by an experienced teamster.
All cows and calves involved must be trained to voice commands and/or halter broken.
All local laws of health, safety, and insurance must be followed.
All animals in such programs must have had previous experience in the association of people so as to not be in a state of shock when taken to be viewed by a crowd.
The health, safety, and general well-being of all animals and people in such programs and people observing such programs take priority over achieving inappropriate daily distance or preaching goals.
There must be fair and considerate treatment of any uncooperative animal.
Oxen should be handled by experienced teamsters only.
Cows, and calves should be handled by persons approved by the primary cowherd. They should have
had some previous experience caring for the animal.
Daily health check of all animals. A sick animal is one which is: noticeably unwell, has a temperature, not eating, or is diseased. Appropriate remedial measures must be taken.
Transported Oxen must be well-provided at all times with the following:
Sufficient space to lie down and rest.
Sufficient ventilation, sunlight, and protection from bad weather.
Legally safe & secure transport facilities (doors closed while traveling, vehicles and/or trailers must be in well maintained condition).
Sufficient food, water, and vegetarian salt.
Sufficient exercise by being un-trailered at night and when not traveling.
Daily brushing.
Walking Oxen
In addition to all the above:
Appropriate and timely foot care (including shoeing, when needed).
Extra rest time and health care.
Their load must be appropriate to their strength power, health, and age, and approved by an experienced teamster.
The legs and feet of walking oxen should be given special attention during the health checks.
On a monthly basis, the oxen should have a complete health examination by a local government or approved veterinarian.
Concise records of the health and temperament of the oxen, local land conditions, weather, distances traveled, and public interest shown to the oxen should be kept on a daily basis.

If the person handling the oxen is not an experienced teamster he must be in training and under the strict supervision of an experienced teamster.
Not Allowed
Training programs consisting of only 1 to 7 days previous to beginning traveling.
Failure to provide sufficient supervision of public access to the cows, resulting in abuse to the cows.
Initiating a traveling preaching program with bullocks without sufficient provision for a suitable place for retirement and cowherd care.
Failure to provide animals the recommended and permitted.


Any property (land and cows) belonging to the Deity should be protected by environmentally sound conservation practices designed with the long-term fertility and preservation of the soil in mind.
The construction of convenient watering places like ponds and tanks and easily accessible shade is appreciated by the cows.

Land may be burned only when dense growth needs to be removed to increase productivity.
Timber :
Conditions for timbering individual select cuttings of trees may be done for the erection of homes, road right-of-ways, construction of fence lines, cropland, or pasture.
Use of timber cut trees so cut must be utilized for construction purposes or firewood.
Replacement when deemed necessary to forest health and supply, trees cut should be replaced by planting new ones in appropriate locations
Not Allowed

Grazing animals who are destined for slaughter on ISKCON/devotee property.
Removing sod or yearly burning of crops or grazing land.
Clear-cutting of trees.
Cutting of trees on steep land or land which may be prone to erosion or any other activity that may lead to erosion.
Performing activities that may lead to contamination of any bodies of water.
Selling or exchanging land used by cows except where the cows will directly benefit or such sales will increase the assets of the cows.
Allowing the unauthorized passage of people without permission from the temple and knowledge of the primary cowherd.


Animal Acquisition :
A cow should not be acquired or bred for furnishing milk without well-defined plans to provide care and lifetime engagement for her resulting offspring.
Cows should be acquired from the nearest ISKCON farm.
Sufficient Land : Care includes having sufficient productive land to support the offspring. This land should be held in a Cow/Land Trust and maintained by self-reliant, low-impact methods.
Engagement of All Stock : Lifetime engagement includes all male calves born be trained and worked and female calves be trained to voice commands or halter broken. Female cows are not required to be bred, especially if there are no plans to train any resultant bull calves.

Use of Non-devotee Land : The acquiring of grazing rights, or leasing of land from non-devotees to provide sufficient land for the cows’ support.
Trust funds and Lifetime Adoption : The establishment of Trust Funds and Lifetime Adoption, in order to adequately provide for a calf throughout its entire life.
The Purchase of Feed : Purchase of feed is permitted when existing lands fail to provide enough.
Leasing Cows : Arrangements for leasing cows to others is permitted if it can contribute to the overall goal of cow protection, and if the lessee is legally bound to abide by all Cow Protection Standards, including, but not limited to, arrangements made for lifetime protection of both cow and calf.

Animal Acquisition
Procuring or breeding of a cow for the purpose of supplying milk without any plan for the care, training and engagement of offspring.
Lack of land and funds for animal care. Failure to provide sufficient land, cowherds, and funds to support the cow and/or offspring.
The Purchase of Feed : Purchasing feed without planning for future production by sustainable agricultural methods.
Leasing Cows : Leasing cows without the legally binding and well monitored contracts as described in # 4 of permitted.
Acquiring Cows From Non-devotees. Buying cows from non-devotees instead of from local overcrowded ISKCON Farms when practical transportation of cows is possible and animals suitable for training are available.


Choosing Breed :
Choice should be made on the basis of retaining traits desirable and appropriate for ISKCON devotees’ particular needs.
Heritage breeds should be considered before more recent breeds.
Choosing Desirable Traits :
Choice should be made taking into consideration docility, longevity, resilience, and the ability to thrive on low-quality feeds.
Desirable milking cow traits include, in addition to longevity of milking, ability to produce milk on low-quality feeds, durability, ease of handling and leading, long teats.
Desirable working oxen traits include, in addition, the ability to work well, durability, ease of training, and sturdy hoof history in lineage (black hoofs being generally stronger).
Geographical Considerations :
Choice of breeding stock depends a great deal upon local conditions and availability.
Breeds that are excellent choices for one area may not be good choices for other areas. For example, the ‘Taurean’ breeds are good for temperate climates while the ‘Zebu’ types are better for the tropics.

Crossbreeding :To use existing stock with an appropriate crossbreeding program, conducted by an experienced breeder, to breed in the desirable bloodlines and breed out the original bloodline.
Not Allowed

Choosing exotic breeds that are unsuitable for location and purposes.
Breeding done without appropriate knowledge which can result in unusable animals. E.g., most Taurean crossed Zebu cows have proven too unruly to milk.


Bull calves of European Taurean breeds should be castrated at 6 months to a year. Indian Zebu breeds should be castrated at 1 year to 2 years.
The method of castration should be by emasculation, specifically using the tool bordezio (bloodless castration) performed by a veterinarian, or experienced professional.

Cutting by a veterinarian or experienced professional.
Use of bordezio by experienced cowherd.
Not Allowed

Banding (using rubber bands around the testicles until they drop off).
Performing acceptable methods of castration by inexperienced cowherd.


Cows should be inseminated by a bull kept at the farm, rather than by artificial insemination, as requested by Srila Prabhupada. Such bulls must be properly enclosed for safety reasons, as well as to avoid unwanted inseminations.
Careful records of breeding must be kept in order to avoid unplanned inbreeding.
When a bull can not be kept safely and humanely, use of a community bull or neighbor’s bulls is recommended.

Artificial Insemination may be used when in special circumstances bulls cannot be properly maintained.
Bulls from a neighbor (even though not farmed according to Vaisnava principles) may also be used if they are suitable.
Inbreeding may be practiced only under strict conditions by an experienced breeder.
Not Allowed

Not restricting a bull in a standard bull pen. Such lack of precaution will inevitably lead to unwanted inseminations. It can also be the cause of life-threatening accidents to cowherds or guests.
Keeping a bull without following the same standards given herein for the cows.
Keeping a bull without association. At least one ox should be kept with him, to prevent boredom.
Keeping the bull in adjacent pastures or stalls to cows he should not breed.


Housing and use of ISKCON land contracted to devotees who are seriously committed to protecting cows and working the land.
Land Base : Cow programs should be increasing the land base available to cow herding, not decreasing.
Lands may be sold or exchanged only if there is an offsetting advantage and an increase to the overall program.
New land acquired to be given, leased, sold at fair market value to those who seriously committed to protecting cows and working the land. Any income generated from such transferred land should be used to benefit the cow protection programs.
The determination of land sales in regard to what is best for the cows should be made by the cows’ primary cowherd.
Ox-power Produce : Ox-power produce should be purchased from the goshalla at above standard market price by temple and devotees. Milk from protected cows should be sold at a premium, with the amount above the standard market value used to make capital contributions to a Cow Protection Trust Fund.
Cow Remains :
Local government and customs must be respected.
When possible it is recommended to honor the dead body of the cow.
After all reasonable efforts have been taken to maintain the soul in the body of the cow, when the soul has left the body of the cow, there is no bar to someone recycling the body unless illegal in that country and after consulting with the primary cowherd. (Recycling the dead body of the cow is in accordance with Srila Prabhupada’s instruction in the Teachings of Queen Kunti and other sources.)
Goshalla Reporting
Managers of goshalla should be accountable for quarterly presenting facts and figures that show the value of the cows, their services provided (i.e. plowing, transport, labor, publicity), their produce and their by-products.

Milk and Ox-power Produce :
When cows and cowherds are sufficiently supported by temple, milk and produce can be given to the temple.
Milk and ox-power produce bought at market value by temple and devotees.
Land Base : Lands may be put into private hands if there is a means easily monitored and managed by which the land will continue to be used for cow protection, i.e. retention of grazing rights, leasing agreements, or the establishment of a fund dedicated to obtaining new land.
Not Allowed

Land Base :
Selling lands for the sake of generating cash flow to deal with non-capital expenditures. This is strictly forbidden except in emergency situations and then only after approval by the Minister of Cow Protection and Agriculture and the approval of the GBC.
Selling land currently used by cows that decreases the over all land base available to the cows.
Using ISKCON’s land to graze animals destined for slaughter. (See Standard VIII Use of Krishna’s Property, Not Allowed #1)
Taxing of Goshalla.
Milk and Ox-power Produce
Consuming milk and produce without compensation to the goshalla.
Cow Remains :
Using the body of a dead cow by cow protectors for profit making activity to such a point that it encourages negligence that contributes to the cow’s death.
Neglecting to follow the government’s laws and local customs in regards to disposal of the dead cow’s body.
Goshalla Reporting : Failure to present facts and figures that show the value of the cows, their services provided (i.e. plowing, transport, labor, publicity), their products and their by-products.


The GBC Should Quarterly :
Meet with cowherds and ox teamsters. This meeting should be a minimum of 1 hour and private.
Visit every cow facility and traveling program and review records. (See Standard 1)
Present written reports to the Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture.
Investigation of Abuses : When a GBC receives reports of cow abuse in his/her locale, the complaint must be investigated by the GBC and if found true, the situation must be corrected by consultation with local Farm Council and the Ministry.
Follow-up by Investigation Team : Where no action has been initiated after one week following investigation or if the Ministry deems the action insufficient, the Ministry will appoint an investigation team to create a report specifying actions needed to correct the situation.
ISKCON’s Ministry of Justice Involvement
If corrections are not initiated within one month following the initial abuse report, the problem will be referred to ISKCON’s Ministry of Justice for further action to protect the cows.

Temple Presidents are responsible to see that local Goshalla Managers send biannual reports to the Ministry of Cow Protection and Agriculture. The local GBC Deputy/Deputies shall validate these reports by either personally visiting or appointing an accountable and reliable representative to do so.
Response to Abuses: Permitted standards are the same as recommended standards #2,3,4 above.
Not Allowed

Failure to meet even permitted standards.


Selection of IT : The Ministry will collect a world-wide list of devotees to act as a resource pool. Such devotees will be knowledgeable of the standards and have agricultural experience. From this list the Ministry will select an appropriate IT.
Travel : To defray travel expense, members of the list who live closest to the problem in question will be chosen first. Members are encouraged to provide travel expense. A fund can eventually be set up to help with travel expense.
Membership of IT : The IT should consist of 2 or more devotees not involved in the management of the program being investigated and a professional suited to the particular situation selected by the IT. The professional should not be currently employed by the farm under investigation.
Duties of IT : The IT will arrange for group meetings and individual interviews with parties concerned and is responsible for the compilation of reports given to all GBC concerned (Local Commissioner, Global Secretary, Justice and Cow Protection Ministries).

Same as recommended
Not Allowed

Failure to follow the above standards in part or whole.

Consult Vaidya