If you are Hindu and believe cows are especially holy, should you be able to have cows on your property? How about if that property is a house and yard on Main Street in a rural village?
“In this circumstance, it’s ridiculous not to allow animals,” says Linda Voith of the Allegany County Village of Angelica. She and her husband Stephen practice the Hindu religion and believe it is their right to keep cows on their property and in their house. For several years, they boarded six cows at a nearby beef farm but occasionally brought them to their home and to Village civic events.
“America is the land of freedom of religion,” Stephen says. The Voiths moved to Angelica in 1999. In 2003, a State Supreme Court judge ordered their cows removed from the Village.
Linda tells us, “I think people are unfamiliar with the holy cow, and wonder what does it mean.”
Stephen says the cow is symbolic of motherhood. “We’re trying to keep a couple of cows, according to the Veda epistemology, to show the sanctity of all life,” he says.
But the cows in the yard led to antagonism with many neighbors. What began as religious expression became a source of irritation to some in the Village who saw a danger to public health. “This is not about religion,” Angelica Mayor Peter Johnson tells us. “We had a lot of complaints about the smells, the proximity to the neighbors.”