Report Highlights Pathetic Condition of Cows in Dairies Across India
An investigation of dairies across 10 States has revealed the `ugly truth’ behind the “White Revolution” of India, where dairy cattle, especially in urban and peri-urban areas, get little access to soft ground, spend their lives in cramped, poorly ventilated and dark enclosures.
Moreover, many dairies were found to have 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, the investigation report `Cattle-logue—Unveiling the Truth of the Indian Dairy Industry’ by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisation (FIAPO) has found.
Multiple wounds were also observed making it evident the inhumane treatment meted out to the cattle as a result of the rising demand for milk and milk products. 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. 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.
The report is part of `End Intensive Dairies’ one of FIAPO’s chief campaigns to improve the conditions of animals used for milking in India. With the country becoming the leading milk and beef producer and holding the largest dairy herd in the world, the campaign is focused on regulating animal food industries that practice institutionalised cruelty.
This report is based on an investigation in 10 states and is aimed at bringing to light the condition of cattle used for the production of milk in India. The investigation recorded evidence of particularly cruel conditions prevalent in urban dairies where cattle are kept for milking purposes and violation of various animal protection and municipal laws occur routinely. Apart from this, data on the registration of dairy premises, number of animals, welfare provisions, and management regime was also collected with an aim of bringing legislative reform for the welfare of dairy cattle.
The ‘White Revolution’ in India was brought by the launch of “Operation Flood” in 1975, under which the milk production in the country increased from 22 million tonnes in 1970 to 104 million tonnes in 2008. Currently, India is the largest producer of milk in the world, accounting for 18.5 % of world production, achieving an annual output of 146.3 million tonnes during 2014-15 as compared to 137.7 million tonnes during 2013-14 recording a growth of 6.3 %.
This massive increase in production capacity of the country has been made possible by introduction of Jersey, Cross breeds and Holstein Friesian variety of cattle that have been genetically selected to produce unnatural average output of 20 liters per milking per day per animal! In order to meet the high milk production targets, these animals are over-exploited thereby, resulting in cruel dairy practices. Such practices also reduce the average lifespan of dairy cattle and increases the risk of reproductive diseases and udder infections.
The life of a dairy cow lasts for an average of 10 years in a dairy establishment as compared to 25 naturally!
The total milk production of India in the financial year of 2014- 15 was at an approximate value of 140 million tonnes. Of this, the states we conducted our investigation in, Uttar Pradesh is the highest producer contributing 17.6% (23.33 million tonnes annually), followed by Rajasthan (10.5%), Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana)(9.6%), Gujarat (7.7%), Punjab (7.3%), Madhya Pradesh (6.6%), 2 3 Maharashtra (6.5%), Haryana (5.03%), Tamil Nadu (5%) and NCT of Delhi (2%).
Poor Infrastructure was one of the most glaring thing revealed during investigation with 25.1% dairies having no arrangements for shelter and had housing in the form of thatch roof sheds, and road-side areas.
Hard floors cause injuries and bruises to cattle as they slip on such surfaces in their own excreta with 78.8%dairies not having access to soft ground, the report said.
As many as 32.9% dairies did not have proper lighting during the night as a result of which most of the dairies conduct the evening milking in dark enclosures.
Continuous tethering of cattle at all times was a common practice in 78.8% of the dairies; the tethers are extremely short to accommodate maximum number of cattle in a small area. This causes extreme physical distress to cattle, preventing them from being in a natural, comfortable posture, said the report.
The quality and quantity of fodder depends on the economic status of the dairy owner as 57.8% farms feed less than half of the desired minimum quantity (20 kg) their cattle per day.
The report further pointed out that in 24% dairies the calves were separated from their mothers immediately after birth. These calves are never able to have contact with their mothers.
In 25.1%dairies, male calves die within the first month. They are mainly either sold or sent for slaughter if they survive. Old, unproductive cattle also face the same fate with 62.9% dairies selling cattle to smaller farmers or slaughter houses. One of the most convenient options for the dairy farmers is also to abandon these “unwanted animals” on the streets.
As many as 57.85% dairies were found to have animals under stress or suffering from injuries or illness and 55.9%dairy owners allow use of sick animals for milking. Sale of milk directly to customers is the preferred choice of dairy owners with 69.3% over selling to dairy cooperatives and companies (23.1%). The main reason for this practice is the low cost of milk procurement by dairy cooperatives, the report said.
Injuries ranging from small bruises to tumours and fractures were noticed in 64.1%of dairies. Illegal use of Oxytocin to increase the milk let down is a common occurrence in 46.9% dairies. Dairy owners use it in excessive quantities (3 to 4 ml.). They claimed that animals have had side effects such as lowered fertility, calf deaths before parturition, calf deaths shortly after birth due to low quality and quantity of milk, dependency on the hormone to release milk and reduction in lifespan to name a few. It has not been possible to independently verify the link between oxytocin and the impacts outlined by dairy owners, the report said.
Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, Oxytocin is a Schedule-H drug and is required to be supplied on the prescription of a registered medical practitioner only. The formulation of Oxytocin injection is required to be packed in single unit blister packed only to avoid its misuse.
Improper and irregular veterinary care Veterinary care was provided only when the animal was sick (84.3% dairy owners depend on vet- oncall services), mostly when it wasn’t able to provide milk. Vaccination schedules are not followed, which leads to outbreak of lethal diseases such a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (HS) and Black Quarter disease. Vaccinations are mainly avoided to prevent the fall in quantity of milk due to fever induced by the injected vaccine, according to the report.
Mutilations De- horning is mainly practiced on non- native cow species with hot iron rods and chemicals and without any form of anaesthetic or pain relief. Though docked tails were noticed, owners deny conducting tail docking on their farms and claim the cattle were bought as such from the cattle market, it said.
The Registration of Cattle Premises Rules, 1978 requires registration of dairies in cities or towns which have a population exceeding one lakh. This rule is followed almost nowhere. Only 14.3% dairies were registered under the respective Municipal Corporations or the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).