The Animal Welfare Board of India on Monday urged citizens to observe February 14 as “Cow Hug Day”, describing the animal as the backbone of Indian culture.

The board did not specifically mention Valentine’s Day, which is also celebrated on the same day. But social media users seemed to believe that this is not a coincidence.

For several years now, Valentine’s Day celebrations have faced opposition from religious conservatives in India. Attacks on couples by vigilante groups are often reported on the day.

The Animal Welfare Board of India, which is under the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, in its appeal on Monday claimed that hugging cows will “bring emotional richness” and will “increase our individual and collective happiness”.

The statutory advisory body asked cow lovers to celebrate February 14 as Cow Hug day “keeping in mind the importance of mother cow and make life happy and full of positive energy”.

The board claimed that Vedic traditions are “almost on the verge of extinction” due to the spread of western culture. “The dazzle of western civilization has made our physical culture and heritage almost forgotten,” it added.

In recent years, followers of religious leader Asaram have also urged Indians to celebrate February 14 as Matri Pitru Pujan Diwas or Parents’ Worship Day.