Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) shows horrifying state of cattle in 451 milk producing centres from India’s 10 leading milk producing states and demands immediate attention by the Centre and State Governments to regulate milk producing dairies.
FIAPO’s investigative report ‘CATTLE-OGUE’ reveals how most cows raised in these dairies are intensively confined, leaving them unable to fulfil their most basic natural needs, such as nursing their calves, and are treated like milk-producing machines – genetically manipulated, pumped with antibiotics and hormones in order to produce more milk. While cows suffer in such set-ups, humans who drink their milk increase their chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other ailments. The unorganised and unregulated upkeep of dairy animals undoubtedly raises a question mark on the safety of the milk that these dairies produce as well as on the sustainability of India’s global leadership of milk production.
Arpan Sharma, Director, FIAPO observed, “It is not just the animals which are getting exploited but also the consumers of milk and dairy products. The conditions in which animals are kept are intrinsically linked to the quality and safety of the product, in this case milk. Poor conditions recorded in the investigation raise serious questions on the safety and quality of milk in the market. We have urged state governments to outlaw the keeping of cattle within municipal limits and also enact conditions for keeping animals in other areas. Similarly, the FSSAI is silent on conditions that need to prevail at the point of milk production. Currently FSSAI regulations pertain only to milk processing, which is only half the story. The Centre too needs to amend the Registration of Cattle Premises Rules 1978 to introduce conditions for the holding of cattle in commercial dairies. We have written to all these authorities and trust that they will take cognizance.”
The ‘White Revolution’ in India was brought by the launch of “Operation Flood” in 1970 – setting high milk production targets, under which the milk production in the country increased from 22 million tonnes in 1970 to 104 million tonnes in 2008. The images of happy cows feeding on green pastures are the perfect façade for a truly cruel and increasingly space- deprived dairy industry. FIAPO’s investigation unveils the ugly truth behind the “White Revolution” of India, where dairy cattle in urban areas get little access to soft ground in 78% dairies. They spend their lives in cramped, poorly ventilated and dark enclosures in more than one quarter of the dairies, where injuries from slipping in their own excreta are a common occurrence – 64.1% dairies had ill, injured and distressed cattle. Poor veterinary care and illegal use of drugs and hormones like oxytocin to increase the milk let-down are prevalent. Thus, an evident delinking of humane treatment of cattle as sentient beings is being noticed as a result of the rising demand for milk and milk products.
Cattle are separated from calves (male calves die within the first week in 25% of dairies), receive little to no veterinary care and are injected with drugs procured illegally to induce sudden milk let-down in almost 50% of the dairies. Unproductive cattle are sold to economically weaker farmers for their personal use or the slaughterhouses by 62.9% dairies – both at low prices to earn meager sums of money from the final disposition. This situation persists mainly because all these methods are considered ‘normal’ and best practice in terms of economic gain and cost cutting for profits, by the dairy industry.
A chilling revelation from the investigation was the use of khalbaccha, an effigy made by stuffing a dead calf with hay. Because of strong maternal bonds, the mother often stops lactating if the calf has died. Hence a khalbacchais routinely used to mimic the presence of a calf and continue milking.
The report calls for urgent and strict implementation of the existing laws of animal welfare as well as urban governance. It also highlights the need for additional regulation in select areas where there are significant violations of acceptable conditions for dairy animals.