Dairy – Sacred Food no More

Posted on November 3, 2016


As I study the practices of the Dairy industry Globally and specifically in India, I am horrified at how much cruelty lies behind that one glass of milk. Much of this write up is from an Indian context which is supposedly one of the more compassionate places for cows globally. Do not let that fool you however. Our cattle are subjected to heinous torture and cruelty worse than just being slaughtered in the western world as beef cattle.

The Always Pregnant Cow

First off dairy requires frequent pregnancy for the cow so that she is able to generate milk. Globally cows are impregnated every year/year half so that the milk runs (the cow is pregnant 9 months so the milk is very little during this time).

You can imagine how taxing this can be on the cows body. In our country they don’t give the cow a break but that is the least of her problems.

Where do the Calves go

One of the interesting things you will notice in so called Goshalas (which are meant for the betterment of cows and leverage government monies) is a stark absence of calves. These Goshalas are the most sinister places much like Dickens fabled orphanages. The cow is exploited horrendously here. It is not, as though the small farmer is better but in this case it is more destitution that drives the exploitation. Let us say all the small farmers family members are equally exploited.

Anyhow the calf you see is competition for the cows milk, so it is taken away as soon as it is born while both the mother and calf weep abjectly. The cows moan for days and milk is induced in the first few days by smelling a stuffed carcass of a dead calf or Oxycontin (which is what the mother produces while breastfeeding a child but is full of side effects when given in medicine form to the cow as it weakens eyesight, has significant nerve damage and basically debilitates the cows body) or more brutal, a stick up her uterus to provoke milk flow. And this is how in absence of a calf the cow keeps producing milk for a few months.

With regards to the calf if it is a female calf and kind of lucky, it gets fed some form of cheap replacement food and then grows to undergo the same exploitative cycle as it’s mother.

If it is not so, as is always the case with bobby calves or the male/bull calf (ever since the advent of agricultural technology the bull calf is mostly redundant) the calf is sold off to “local boys” who know which state to ship it to for veal/leather. Of course as we know the calf undergoes brutal cruelty during transportation and killing with legs being broken, dehydration and starvation. At the slaughter house conditions are diabolical with animals often skinned when conscious. The animals are made to walk miles with a mixture of black pepper and salt that is put in their eyes.

Some small farmers find it painful to sell the calf to these middlemen. So they shoo the male calf out far and away and that is what drives all those confused and wandering calves on the streets which mostly die out through impact accidents. The other alternative for such farmers is to gift the bull calf to a big temple. In many big temples today the calves are left standing outside tied to the parapet till they die of dehydration which in Indian heat is a quick proposition. The temple authorities know this, but this way the direct responsibility of killing the calf does not fall on them. The remains are then sold for leather. Simhachalam temple is one example of many.

The semi lucky bull calf (and this is very rare nowadays) will get castrated with a razor and of course no anesthesia. It is said the cries of the calf will stay with you for lifetimes. It is so brutal.

So in essence we take a life and in the most brutal way possible for that glass of milk.

The old Mother Cow

And let us please disabuse ourselves of the bucolic image of old retired cows and bulls in a Goshala. That happens to a lucky 5% of retired cows. When the cow is old and unable to milk, if she is lucky she is released to the street where she wanders from dump to dump searching for food, evading traffic and in most cases butchers who will pick her up and drive her to slaughter.

If the cow is not so lucky she meets the same fate as her progeny and bulls in her advent towards the slaughterhouse or leather house.

All Milch Cattle are Mothers

The fate of the buffalo is even worse. We drink their milk but because of the subtle difference in cattle species we allow mass slaughter and torture. With the cow we just pretend we don’t know

So what is the Solution

I am kind of sick of hearing of blanket solutions like “stop cow slaughter”, “become vegan” etc etc. These are solutions that can only work partially and the more complicated laws we impose, the easier it becomes to find loopholes. I am not saying that what animal rights activists are doing is not good. In fact may their tribe increase. We need more of them to shine light on the reality of what is happening. Some ideas below are implementable where there is a will. It does require a concert of government, religion and animal rights.

  1. Indigenous generation of sexed semen – It is absolutely imperative that government invests in the technology and we do not have to import prohibitively expensive and unviable (the sizes don’t align with native breeds) bull semen from outside. I am amazed we don’t already have native industries for different Indian breeds. This is the need of the hour. The cow can produce heifers 90% of the time which means reduced number of male calves. This sexed semen should be available to all farmers at cheap rates. This can significantly cut the birth of male calves and reduce the abject cruelty to them.
  2. Stop the export of Dairy – We cannot afford to export dairy for our local population and our cattle. Dairy derivatives such as medicines with Ghee etc are different from dairy products. This should be one product category where no import or export should be allowed. The dairy that comes from other countries is simply too cruel and exporting dairy leads to stretched demand and reduced supply within India. It also drives a lot of the cruelty. The time to stop it is now. We have to limit the demand.
  3. Reduced consumption by some segments – What does a grown man need copious amounts of dairy for? Be conscious in its consumption please. The kids need dairy in a country like India. A pregnant woman and women in fertile years need some dairy but enough calcium substitutes like sesame seeds abound. If you are wolfing down mithai please think of the cow and heart. This has to be driven by the consumer.
  4. The conscious consumer – Consumers need to start asking the right questions of where the dairy comes from. Please go and visit the goshala, please ask questions of where the calf is, please ask whether the calf can suckle the mother. There are very very few dairies in India that have some compassion. The price of milk is of course higher. If you can afford it, pay the high price. A child’s suffering is not worth your glass of milk.  If you cannot understand compassion, understand what the karmic ramifications of this might be. It is imperative that our gurus and religious figures ask followers to track their source of dairy. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
  5. Adopt a cow/milch cattle – If you consume milk products you are obligated to adopt atleast several cattle in your lifetime. There are some legitimate places where you can adopt an abandoned calf, older cows and bulls. This has to become mandatory for every Indic to the extent possible. You consume milk, you’d better look after the cow/buffalo’s family. It’s simple karma. This is again something that has to be driven by our religious leaders.
  6. Avoid leather – Wherever possible avoid wearing leather. Unlike olden times leather is mostly from animals that are killed and not those that died naturally. Luckily technology is so awesome that you can buy excellent vegetarian products – shoes, belts etc. The leather industry drives horrendous cruelty
  7. Keep your eyes open – If you see an abandoned cow/calf, find a credible goshala to get the animal taken care of. If you see cruelty in a dairy report it. It’s your duty.
  8. And all the usual stuff – Execution of laws/ animal rights activism/ undercover investigations et al

If we don’t fix our act with regard to animals we will no longer be India. The sacredness will escape from our land. I have no hopes and expectations from Muslims at all. They are what they are. However, the Indics must do their bit and more as should animal rights minded Christians.


No Sacred Cows: The Dark Side of the Dairy Industry in India