According to an estimate given by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), more than 10,000 cows in the national capital are being exploited by their owners.
Most local illegal dairy owners in the capital leave their cows loose during the day to roam around in the city. The starving animals have no option but to eat from garbage and consume plastic. Even though in 2008 the Delhi High Court (HC) ordered a unified MCD to relocate all illegal dairies to Ghogha — a planned dairy colony developed on the outskirts of the city, the illegal dairies continue to operate. As quoted by various petitions in the HC, the illegal dairies still continue to run without a permit. Such dairies have the minimum to none hygiene facilities as often brought to notice via complaints by the residents in the area. The animals aren’t fed properly and cow shelters are sub-standard.
A municipal official said, “Technically, there are no stray cattle in Delhi because all the cattle are marked by their owners. But they let cows loose and they are picked by the MCD from the roads as stray animals. The rough estimate of more than 10,000 cattle refers to such cattle.” The MCD has never conducted any official survey on this issue.
“Between April 2015 and October 2015, we picked 1,939 cattle in the city that were then sent to eight various gausadans (cow homes) that operate under Delhi government. That is what MCD is supposed to do. We try our best to rescue cows out of their deprived, state but staff shortage is always a problem. We do take out drives to rescue stray animals and provide them shelter but all cannot be done overnight,” said Y.S. Maan, spokesperson, North MCD.
According to MCD, 86 illegal dairies have been relocated to Ghogha, post the HC order. The capacity of Ghogha dairy is said to be of 160 dairies. An MCD official explained why the relocation failed: “Ghogha lacks basic requirements that are needed to run a dairy colony. Lack of water and electricity forced many dairy owners to come back in the city where they again started running their business. Non-availability of systematic means of transportation to distribute milk from the outskirts of the city, proved a major obstacle. The illegal dairies, therefore, got re-established and controlling stray cows took a hit too, thus affecting the well-being of the animal.”
“The negligence of the owners towards cows is heart-breaking. The cow is an all-giving animal and a sensitive creature. The lack of good and sufficient food, consumption of plastic, hormone injections, etc., affect the well-being of cows. This, in turn, also affects the quality of the milk and the meat of the animal. Hence, it is directly becoming a health issue that cannot be ignored at any cost. Harassment of a docile animal and risking people’s health who consume dairy products are a matter of immediate concern,” said Yogi Ashwini, founder and guiding light of Dhyan Foundation.
“Statistics show that the percentage of households consuming milk in India has gone up from 66.3% to 78% in rural areas, while it went up from 80% to 84.9% in urban areas. In 2016, fluid milk consumption is forecast to increase by 5% to 62.75 MMT (million metric tons) on population growth. To meet the demand for dairy, tabelas (large factory farms) are replacing small, family run farms. PETA investigators have documented cruelties such as cattle being crudely and painfully artificially inseminated, animals chained by their necks in filthy narrow stalls, illegal use of the drug Oxytocin to produce more milk which causes pain to the animals similar to being in labour, and calves being taken away from their mothers,” said Poorva Joshipura, CEO, PETA India.
Changed geographical dynamics is also a problem. “Even today you will find cows as pets in rural homes. Cows have always been an integral part of a household but the urban landscape has no space for this animal. Homes for cows should be made part of the urban landscape with necessary facilities,” said Girish Juyal, founder, Sarparsth Anjuman Farzind-e-Hind (Sons of the nation) and national organising convener of RSS affiliated Muslim Rashtriya Manch.
Joshipura added: “While we urge animal husbandry departments to take steps to alleviate the suffering of cattle in the dairy industry, such steps can never eliminate all cruelty. We therefore urge consumers to go dairy-free, and opt for plant-based milks such as that from soya, almond, or coconut.”