Foreign meat and milk producers taking us for a ride?
What else explains the quixotic policies aimed at controlling cattle trade, preventing cruelty to animals and enforcing restrictions that affect millions of farmers and meat, milk and leather trades?
People need a balanced diet of proteins and carbohydrates to survive healthily. While vegetarians opt for dairy products and agro products like lentils and soya to meet their protein requirements, non-vegetarians choose between fish, pork, meat, chicken and beef, the last in the list largely from buffaloes.
Muslims, Christians, various scheduled castes and tribals as well as a few Hindus consume beef, thus cattle play an integral role in the food chain. Food habits have a locational bearing as coastal regions rely on fish from the seas and the hill tribes rely on furred sheep. The large fertile plains with abundant grazing lands support bovine population like cows, buffalos and goats.
But goat rearing is discouraged, even disallowed in many states for organised farming, as it is considered a destructive animal.
The liberalisation of the Indian economy ensured growth in the income of the middle-classes, who spent more than ever before on consumption of rich protein food. The exponential growth of the milk industry further encouraged growth of rural dairy cooperatives and household rearing of cows.
Farms used to utilise bulls for ploughing and rural transport. Rural youth are moving over to urban and semi-urban centres for employment, as the farming community is mechanising in the absence of adequate availability of farm labourers, which are seasonal, monsoon reliant and unpredictable. Tractors have set in to play dual roles both in ploughing and as rural transport, increasingly eliminating bulls.
With artificial insemination to ensure continued lactation periods, the cows, which could easily outnumber bulls by 5:1 are rendered unviable the day its milk production falls below the cost of its maintenance. They are then disposed to the next in the chain to the middlemen who trade them in animal haats, as has been the tradition for generations.
The word ‘middlemen,’ has assumed a sinister meaning ever since lobbyists meddled into defence deals, and today it is synonymous to pimps. Dalal, as it is translated can be contemptuous, derogatory and the word evokes a bundle of all negative connotations.
The government seemingly is dismissive about the plight of ₹1 lakh crores plus, meat and leather industry, involving about 3 million people. Who is going to ensure that the industry does not turn bankrupt and why should we not utilise the hide from dead animals, which is a valuable natural resource? By preposterously suggesting cremation of the dead cattle, more natural resources are going to be spent. The fallout on the milk industry too could be severe.
I have seen poor people digging earth to catch ants to supplement their protein intake in today’s India. There are people without jobs and food. To address them should be the priority rather than causing unpredictability in the economy and employment.
I do not support cruel practices of any kind, be it in the induced birth by artificial insemination, forced male calf mortalities, animal handling and transport, their method of barbaric killings, which though in many Qur’anic countries are done by stunning. Cows may not have more pain than goats, sheep or other animals. Treat the latter with equal compassion too. Gods did not want sacrifices in their altar and during religious festivals. Could we stop these too?
A few years ago, cows in India were laughably labelled by the West as worst offenders for causing shrinkage of ozone layer, because of their release of methane gases (while belching)! The West demanded us to drastically reduce our bovine population. Now the new act of control on sale of cattle comes. I smell a foreign hand again regulating our policies! Foreign meat companies, milk producers could be taking the government for a ride through NGOs.
The author is a former chairman of Council for Leather Exports. The views are personal and the post is reproduced with permission from his Facebook page