By Varda Mehrotra
As milk consumers, we must do our bit to ensure that cow enjoys a sweet retirement. If we don’t, humanity will run the risk of losing all that is humane
The country is full of ‘stray’ cows that roam around on roads, eat garbage, and obstruct traffic. After the cows fulfill their purpose of being productive, they are often seen as nuisance and treated accordingly — many are abandoned on roads while others are butchered. This is not the way to treat an animal which has been forced to serve humans all its life.
Cows in India have a peculiar fate: Predestined and premeditated. Despite religious connotations of a cow in India, the life of a bovine is anything but easy. Male calves are sent straight for slaughter, female calves are fed the bare minimum milk that is meant for them, and the grown cows are treated like machines, isolated, milked relentlessly, and finally abandoned. India is one of the largest milk producing countries in the world but this fame comes at a high cost.
Milking cows has been such an integral part of the Indian society for so long that people have forgotten the pain and toil that goes behind the dairy industry, for the animals. Dairy animals have been — in this age — reduced to mere milk manufacturing machines, they are artificially inseminated to produce heirs who will take up their job of keeping up with the milk demands of the entire Indian population.
Male calves are considered and treated as a liability and are either sent for slaughter or abandoned on the streets. Artificially impregnated cows are not fed properly and once they are dry, they meet the same fate as that of their male offspring. They are not allowed to roam around. They are kept tethered all throughout the day, without adequate sunlight, water, food and space. Forcible impregnation and confined living conditions on top of being injected with hormones to ‘encourage’ milk production — no living being capable of experiencing emotions should have to endure cruel conditions like these.
Milk is an important part of the Indian diet and the White Revolution, that changed the country’s economy drastically, was also possible because of the dairies and the cows. These animals serve the dairies and by extension, serve the countries and they deserve better than to just be abandoned once they have fulfilled their purpose.
If it’s not abandonment, it’s illegal trafficking leads to slaughter. Cow slaughter is a very sensitive issue in a country which worships and treats cows like mothers. The unfortunate outcome of such activities is usually communal violence, with an administration at best neutral to the issue and, at worst, willing to exploit it for political gains. Lately, many mob lynching cases have occurred revolving around cow slaughter.
In light of these issues, it becomes extremely important to consider cows’ and male calves’ proper relocation. Gaushalas are institutions that allow cows to have a home after they have been abandoned, and more than half of them are private bodies, running on private donations. However, Government-funded gaushalas or kanji houses are most of the times overcrowded, overburdened and lack resources.
Owing to all these factors, caring for cows automatically becomes the responsibility of dairy farms for whom these animals were once assets. We have been depended on a system for so long without actually caring enough to take a peek into what goes on beyond the veneer of dairies, but by not caring for multiple animals which they have been exploiting all their lives, the system that we believed in is failing us. Considering the conditions that they eventually end up in, the animals are in a bad situation, from which there seems to be no respite.
Corporates allocate some fund as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which they only utilise for the benefit of the society. As a responsibility towards these animals, corporates can allocate some part of their CSR fund towards these unsheltered cows. In addition to this, the dairies can also add such a fund, which can provide for these animals, when there is no other way to get funds for rehabilitation and shelter of animals that are no longer productive.
Being a consumer, it is our duty to take care of them as well. Like we take care of service dogs and therapy dogs after they retire with good foster homes, we should do the same for the cows which have given their all for the human society.
The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) has written to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change as also the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, to direct the State Animal Husbandry departments to make a separate fund for retiring animals and amount of which will be contributed by the dairy farms.
These animals have spent all their life serving humans and, hence, it is our responsibility to take care of them. It is our moral duty to thank those who have served us and make sure that they have a respectable life.
(The writer is an Executive Director of Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations)
Date: 18 Aug 2018