Two-year undercover study reveals cruel side of India’s dairy industries
What goes into the daily glass of milk that ends up on your table? A recurring process of animal cruelty, according to a two-year nationwide study by Pune animal protection group Animal Equality.
Inexperienced men using unsterile equipment to artificially inseminate dairy animals, calves snatched from their mothers just days after birth, animals being brutally hit with sticks, chains or sold to slaughter houses when there is a drop in milk production — these were the findings of the group’s undercover study of dairy farms across India, documented through photos and videos.
Around 107 dairy farms, two semen-collection centres, 11 cattle markets, eight slaughterhouses, seven meat markets and five tanneries in Haryana, Punjab, Telangana, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra were investigated.
The study, released on Saturday, National Milk Day, shows how practices violate the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, Transport Rules, 1978, Slaughterhouse Rules, 2001, and various high court and Supreme Court orders. It recommends that Dairy Animal Welfare Rules and guidelines for proper handling of cattle be introduced.
“It may seem that cattle in India are protected, but they are tortured daily ,” said Amruta Ubale, executive director, Animal Equality. “In the wild, cattle may live up to 20 years. These cruel practices cause their bodies to deteriorate at the age of just four,” she said.
She added that unproductive animals are killed and supplied to the beef and leather industry. “These industries pump cows and buffaloes with hormones. Dairy owners medicate animals themselves to save costs, leaving them with injuries and untreated diseases,” she said.
According to the department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, India has 327 million cattle, the most in the world. The government invested Rs2,242 crore to help meet a national demand of 150 million tonnes of milk by 2016-17, which is expected to increase to 210 million tonnes by 2021.
Radha Mohan Singh, Union minister for agriculture and farmers welfare, told HT several national and state-level schemes had been introduced over the past two years to facilitate an increase in milk production and promote security for animals. “We started the Rashtriya Gokul Mission to conserve and develop indigenous breeds, set up a national breeding centre and 18 more such centres across India. We managed a 20% increase in milk production in India. This will boost farmers’ efforts to protect their cattle.”
But, activists said an equitable demand for milk nationwide would help animal welfare. “It is time to reconsider our dairy policy and make consumption equitable so we have fewer animals. Only then will we have sustainable animal agriculture and animal welfare can be made a priority,” said NG Jayasimha, member, Maharashtra animal welfare board and managing director, Humane Society International/India.
A senior official from the union environment ministry said guidelines are issued under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, but the department of animal husbandry does the monitoring. The national spokesperson from National Diary Development Board, Gujarat, said they were working with all 206 cooperatives in India where trained professionals were taking care of animals in a scientific manner through private veterinary practices such as vaccines and breeding.
Experts said guidelines drafted by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) have been ignored by the central government. “There are rules under PCA Act, standalone rules drafted by municipal corporations and local bodies, and suggestions have been made to strengthen them. But there is no will to implement them on the ground,” said Dr S Chinny Krishna, former vice chairman, AWBI.
Recommendations for formation of Dairy Animal Welfare Rules and guidelines for proper handling of cattle
Formation of a committee to monitor welfare of dairy animals
Training for dairy farmers on proper handling and good practises
Sexed semen technology to avoid male calf slaughter
Strict standards of hygiene, discontinue tethering of animals and leave them open in a designated area, Effectively implement the oxytocin prohibition, prohibit cosmetic practices such as dehorning, tail docking and branding
Increase the minimum penalty of Rs50 to Rs 20,000 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960
(Source: Indian dairies - cruel to animals, humans and the environment, study by Animal Equality, Pune)