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White lies: a milk sullied by abuse

By Swati Poddar Dec 6 2017, 0:11 IST

We all enjoy our morning cup of tea unmindful of the fact that the simple act of sipping it could result in cruelty to another being. Humans are compassionate beings and believe that we should not hurt another sentient being knowingly. But what we don't realise is that most of our lifestyle choices are unintentionally causing immense suffering to animals.

Even though most Indians worship cows, a majority of the population is oblivious to the torture these animals are subjected to for milk. All animals produce milk for their offspring, just like humans. However, the dairy industry steals milk from the mothers, denying their young of this nutrition, to sell it in beautifully packaged plastic bags.

The mere act of buying dairy products in the form of milk, buttermilk, ghee, paneer, ice creams, cheese etc ends up funding practices and abuse we otherwise admonish. The dairy industry is tricking the consumers into funding animal abuse.

Furthermore, the primary reason for a large number of stray cows and buffaloes all over the country is the increase in 'useless' animals and their calves who cannot be milked by the dairy industry anymore. While the government has plans to spend billions on building smart cities, we wonder if there are any plans to address the stray cattle issue in these smart cities.

The report by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), Cattle-ogue, brought to light the harsh realities that tend to be ignored for a cup of coffee. We conducted investigations in 451 dairies across 10 states in India.

The report has left us with some deeply disturbing findings about the indiscriminate use and abuse of animals in the dairy industry. For example, it was observed that 63% of dairy operators either sold male calves to the meat industry or left them to starve to death.

In 24% of the dairies, the calves were found to be separated from their mothers immediately after birth, so that the milk of the mother can be sold for human consumption, denying the babies of their birthright. Subsequently, the calves end up dying due to neglect, reducing the upkeep cost for the dairy owner.

Not only are all calves denied the mother's love and affection, the mothers are often lactating and pregnant at the same time. Our investigation found that to impregnate cows, artificial insemination is performed forcefully in almost 100% dairy farms across the country.

And to increase the production of milk and stimulate milk production in the animal, 47% dairies use an illegal drug called 'oxytocin'. This drug is banned, but is manufactured locally and injected into animals twice a day, inducing labour-like pains along with lactation.

Chained for gain

The report also found that to accommodate the maximum number of animals in minimum space, 79% dairies keep the animals tethered at all times and 70% do not have adequate resting space for the animals. That essentially implies that animals are chained their whole life and are denied the right to their natural behaviour of ruminating, mooing and forming familial bonds.

Because of strong maternal bonds, cows and buffaloes often stop lactating if their offspring die. A chilling revelation from the investigation was the use of 'khalbaccha,' an effigy made by stuffing a dead calf with hay.

A 'khalbaccha' is routinely used to mimic the presence of a calf so that the mother continues to lactate and can be milked. Imagine this practice in the human context. We would never think to do the same with our children and as awful as it is, it is sad to consider what humans would do for monetary gain.

For a country with over 432 million dairy animals, it is not strange that India is the largest exporter of beef in the world. What's strange is the fact that unlike in the West, India does not have beef farms, that is cows and buffaloes are not raised for meat. Additionally, cow slaughter is illegal in India with the exception of eight states. So where is all this beef coming from? Clearly, all this meat is the exhaust fumes of the dairy industry.

There is widespread proof of the gruesome horrors behind the production of dairy and this muddies the notion of how pure milk really is. It's time we check our consumption and questions ourselves: is milk really the superhero it is made out to be or is it just a 'white lie'?

(The writer works for the Don't Get Milked campaign by Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO))

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