Unspoken Cultural Costs to India’s First Mega-Dairy: Part II

Unspoken Cultural Costs to India’s First Mega-Dairy: Part II

Dairy farmer pumps water for one of his cows in Jharkhand

This is the second of two blogs examining just a few of the unspoken cultural costs to India as a result of the transition from small-scale dairy operations to factory-style mega-dairies, like the recently opened Bhagylaxmi Dairy Farm.

For India, the killing of cows is a cultural taboo. Currently cow slaughter is illegal in all but two states, and is regularly met with much controversy. But all cows within industrialized farms will befall the same slaughterhouse fate, and subsequent to intensification of dairy will be a drastic rise in both abattoirs and slaughtered animals. How will traditional Indians react to this undermining of thousands of years of moral and cultural heritage?

One of the often overlooked yet greatly significant cost to industrialization of dairy are the lives of the animals who are affected by factory farms. Although it is true that compared to traditional India dairy farms, animals within industrialized farms have access to healthier food, and regular veterinarian care, industrialized systems also breed a plethora of novel welfare concerns. These concerns are not limited to stress and fear of overcrowding, udder infection, debilitating hoof and leg injuries, metabolic disease, bodily mutations, continuous confinement, and the stress of repeated impregnation and immediate separation from calves. Will India, with a history based in the tradition of Ahimsa, consent to this type of treatment towards animals?

The mega-dairy industry is a very profitable business, and India, with the projected growth in dairy demand, is an ideal candidate for international development. But with western countries only now beginning to come to terms with the negative outcomes of mega-dairies-from the inherent abusive animal husbandry practices and loss of village livelihoods, to the devastating environmental impacts-is this the path India truly desires to walk? Political and industry leaders should consider this issue critically, from both cost and benefit aspects. India is at a turning point, it easily has the opportunity to set a global precedence and choose the traditional mores of its people, the livelihoods of rural and women local farmers, and the well-being of its sacred animal, over succumbing to the tempting high profits of the global dairy boom.

For more on issues of equity and animal welfare in India’s dairy industry, see our policy paper, Veg or Non-Veg: India at the Crossroads and other related materials.

Photo courtesy of premasagar, Flickr