The reality of the dairy industry and its cows

India is moving towards intensive factory farming practices, in which animals are treated like inanimate machines. A cow contentedly chewing her cud may look as though she does not have a care in the world, but there is a lot going on behind those big brown eyes.

Traditionally, cows raised for milk roamed free and were milked by hand. Animals were treated well and were recognised as part of our culture, our ecosystem and our families. But the Indian dairy industry is changing, and small family farms are being replaced with cruel tabelas – which are nothing but profit-making places without a care for animals’ welfare.

Deadly dairies

India now has the largest dairy industry in the world, and as a result, millions of cattle in India lead miserable lives. According to The Book of Compassion: Reverence for All Life, “The cow is forced into yearly pregnancies. After giving birth, she is milked for 10 months but will be artificially inseminated during her third month so that she is milked even when she is pregnant. The [demand for] production of milk is more than her body can give. So she starts breaking down body tissue to produce milk.”

“Most of the day, the cow is tied up in a narrow stall usually wallowing in her own excrement. She gets mastitis because the hands that milk her are rough and usually unclean. She gets rumen acidosis from bad food and lameness. She is kept alive with antibiotics and hormones.”

In the floods in Mumbai in 2005, more than 2,500 buffaloes and cows who were kept tied up in tabelas located at Goregaon, Andheri and Jogeshwari were unable to escape the rising waters and were left to drown. Many more animals were carried away by the water and later found dead.

Investigation findings

Little has changed over the years, as PETA’s investigators discovered while visiting dairies in Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. It is believed that there are thousands of illegal dairies, each of which has anywhere from 50 to 3,000 animals; each animal is forced to produce up to approximately 14 litres of milk per day.

Cows and buffaloes who are raised for their milk are impregnated repeatedly, and their calves are taken away at birth while their milk is stolen for human consumption.

No compassion for calves

Mother cows and buffaloes love their calves, just as all mothers love their babies. Yet the dairy industry routinely keeps these animals pregnant, ensuring that they will give birth to many babies, who are taken away almost immediately after birth. The calves meet an even worse fate. Male calves are tied up with ropes so short that they cannot lift their heads; in a desperate attempt to reach their mothers, the calves often strangulate themselves to death.

Newborn calf drinking milk from a hose after being separated from his mother

In Mumbai tabelas, male calves had their feet tied so they cannot try to go over to their mothers for milk and their mouths tied shut with ropes so they cannot cry out when they are hungry (this is done so the residents of buildings near the tabelas do not come to investigate why they hear the babies’ cries).

These babies are then left to die a slow, agonising death in a corner. Once or twice a week, a haath gaadi wala comes by and picks up the dead and sometimes dying bodies of the baby calves and takes them to Deonar, where they are skinned for calf leather. Other male calves are abandoned on the roads to fend for themselves.

They are denied the milk that is rightfully theirs and are given just a fraction of the milk that they need to grow naturally. In fact, dairy owners allow babies to suckle for just a minute or two so milk from the mother cows can start flowing, and then the babies are taken away and dairy staff steal the milk. Watch [in the video below] how the calf is yanked away as soon as the milk starts flowing from the cow’s udders. The men lose no time in fitting the machine.

Milking machines

Today, more and more cows and buffaloes in India are milked by machines. The machines tend to take more milk out of the cows than the amount they would yield naturally and easily. Workers often do not pay attention while the machines are on; even after milk has been taken out, the machines often keep sucking the animals’ dry udders, causing them a lot of pain.

Cows and buffalos are treated like milk-producing machines and are given large doses of hormones that cause them to produce unnaturally large quantities of milk. Oxytocin, a Schedule H drug (a drug which cannot be bought or sold without a prescription) is widely used, even though its use is illegal.

According to a report by Dr. R P Parashar, President, DAV Research Society for Health, in a survey conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, it was found that 82% cattle breeders were using Inj. Oxytocin in the capital, 62%-68% cattle breeders from adjoining areas of Delhi like Sonipat, Rohtak, Faridabad, Gohana, Bahadurgarh, Loni, Ghaziabad, Hapur, Buland Shahr etc. and 23% to 32% from remote areas of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were using Oxytocin for milking cows and buffaloes.

Usually after 5 to 6 months of conceiving, animals stop giving milk but cattle breeders continue milking the cattle three to four months more by injecting Oxytocin.

Artificial Insemination

One of the main reasons why India has become the world’s largest milk producer is the introduction of the technique of artificial insemination, which is akin to rape in human terms. Rather than letting them procreate naturally, cows are repeatedly impregnated in order to yield more progeny.

Animals are treated by ‘barefoot healers’, who neglect even the most basic of minimum standards. AI guns are never sterilised; syringes and needles are used numerous times on different animals without being sterilised.

Doctors often shove their bare, soapy hands into animals’ uteri, causing cows immense pain and exposing them to potential infections and diseases. Cows are held in a cruel manner and beaten up in order for the ‘doctors’ to be able to perform the procedure.

Cow welfare

The situation is horrific; just like cats, dogs and humans, cows and buffaloes are individuals. Cows are revered in Hinduism as beings carriers of 33 crore gods. They have been known to perform amazing feats, such as leaping over a 6-foot fence to escape from a slaughterhouse and walking seven miles to reunite with a calf after being sold at an auction.

A dairy is not a sanctuary. It exists solely to produce profits for its owners, and when animals are no longer considered profitable, they are disposed of in one hideous way or another. Dairy owners cannot be blamed exclusively for all this cruelty – they produce milk because people drink it and demand it.

Kasmin Fernandes

This post was first published in The CSR Journal

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