We often believe that if we don’t eat non-vegetarian food and don’t use leather products, we are saving animals. But we aren’t. Animal cruelty is associated in a great measure with the Indian dairy industry as well.
The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) conducted an undercover investigation in 49 dairies across four cities Alwar, Bikaner, Jaipur, and Jodhpur, in June 2016. And their findings would shock anyone.
The cattle were found to be living in inhospitable conditions. They were being exploited and cruelly dealt with beyond imagination.
“There is constant abuse of animals that the milk industry promotes at every step. There are no happy cows gladly providing their milk for humans to consume, as we are made to believe,” says VardaMehrotra, the 33-year-old FIAPO director.
Just like human mothers, cattle too lactate for their young child. Because of this, frequent pregnancy of cows is encouraged and often, animals are subjected to artificial insemination.
Animals are made to calve at least once a year for the milk to be produced, which means the cattle are continually artificially impregnated. Due to this, the life span of the cattle is drastically affected. Milk animals are found to have a life span of around 10 years, whereas normally they’d live till about 25 years.
While the adult cattle are used for milk, the male calf is slaughtered for its meat and skin as it is unable to produce milk. But there’s more to this. A calf should be at least four to five months old before he meets his fate. But the dairy industry doesn’t even let the calf live this much. Many farms often send the little animal to the slaughter house within four to five days of its birth, thereby violating the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001.
“Dairy is cruel and the reality of the dairy industry which we often do not get to see is that there is brutality and abuse, leading to the slaughter of animals once they are termed ‘useless’ and incapable of milk production,” says Varda.
Once born, the calves are separated or restricted from accessing their mothers, which is traumatic for both mother and calf. While the mother’s milk is used for human consumption, the calves are fed substitutes and allowed limited suckling. Male calves and unproductive, sterile females are deemed unusable and are either abandoned or sent for slaughter. Females that are healthy are kept alive and are milked will no more is left, and then they’re slaughtered too.
In what seems almost too otherworldly and too shocking to be true, in order to continue the milking process and keep the mother lactating, a khalbaccha — a makeshift calf — is placed next to her. In certain farms, the tail and the head of the young calf is dismantled from the carcass and is placed at the ends of the stick. The smell of death is camouflaged with hay and a balm; hence, the cow continues to get milked, while the remains of the young calf are sold in the market as veal.
If you think milk products are healthy, think again
There is this almost unanimous belief that milk products are healthy. Through advertising and word of mouth, this has become an unshakable truth for us. But that isn’t entirely true.
KuntalJoisher is the world’s first vegan to climb Mount Everest. He says, “I am a mountaineer by passion and a vegan by compassion and I want people to question their consumption and the choices they make.”
He believes that if he can climb the highest peak in the world on a plant- based diet, anyone can live a healthy life without consuming animal products. He adds that by following a plant-based diet, one can drastically cut their carbon footprint, save precious water supplies, and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than livestock.
The FIAPO calls the belief that milk products are healthy a ‘white lie’. Varda says, “If you tell anyone that drinking milk actually causes as much suffering as eating meat, they will not believe you. S0, the whole idea of ‘Don’t Get Milked’ is to bring forth the reality of the dairy industry and enable consumers to make a more informed decision.”
Let’s introspect for a moment. Even if we continue to consume milk products, can’t we at the very least give up leather products immediately? Our lives aren’t dependent on them. The benefits to doing so are immense, primary of which is saving the lives of ‘spent out’ cows and young calves.
If we can vow to boycott leather products, and through word of mouth communicate to people close to us to do the same, then the difference we can make is huge. And then we can slowly reduce our dependency on milk products, until that time when we no more feel the urge to consume them either.
So, let’s change ourselves and bring about a visible change in the world!