In this file photo taken on May 15, 2018 an Indian man feeds a cow with bread on a street in New Delhi. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: India’s government-run animal welfare department has appealed to citizens to mark Valentine’s Day this year not as a celebration of romance but as “Cow Hug Day” to better promote values.

The Animal Welfare Board of India said Wednesday that “hugging cows will bring emotional richness and increase individual and collective happiness.”

“Therefore, all the cow lovers may also celebrate February 14 as Cow Hug day keeping in mind the importance of mother cow and making life happy and full of positive energy,” the statement added.

In recent years, hardliners have raided shops in Indian cities, burned cards and gifts, and chased hand-holding couples out of restaurants and parks, saying that Valentine’s Day promotes promiscuity.

Young educated Indians irrespective of their religion typically spend the holiday crowding parks and restaurants, exchanging gifts and holding parties to celebrate like any other Indian festival, especially since India began the process of economic liberalisation in the early 1990s.

Most states in India have banned cow slaughter. The animal welfare board’s appeal asks people to go out and physically hug cows on Feb. 14.

After the notification, the Uttar Pradesh Animal Husbandry Minister Dharampal Singh also urged people to celebrate ‘Cow Hug Day’, instead of Valentine’s Day on February 14.

Talking to ANI, the minister said, “On one hand, Valentine’s Day will be celebrated all over the world on February 14, on the other hand, the Animal Welfare Society of India has given another option to those having problems with Valentine’s Day. They can celebrate Cow Hug Day if they want.”