India is the largest milk producer in the world. With a total production of 156 million tonnes, somewhere along the road, India has learned to milk more. We now export and produce more milk than the entire EU combined.
We have achieved this through an integrated cooperative system of milk collection. But that’s not all, there is a story to this. A revolution had to happen to bring this change. The White Revolution in the 1970s. We crossbred our indigenous cows with the European ones. The hybrid cows could then produce as much as 15 liters of milk per day. It was a new beginning. A beginning from where on we kept choosing quantity over quality.
The hybrid cows produce majorly A1 protein milk which is known to cause digestive issues for some people. Our native Indian breeds produce A2 protein milk which is easier to digest. A2 protein, similar in structure to human milk, is the best alternative to mother’s milk. Today, for increasing the amount of milk that we can produce, we consume not just less healthy milk but milk which can be causing various diseases. Regular milk exposes us to the risk of type-1 diabetes and coronary heart diseases. It causes gut inflammation and irritable bowel syndrome.
In many dairy farms, if a cow drinks sewage water, its milk couldn’t possibly be healthy. The biologically modified cows are injected with oxytocin (an illegal drug) to make them produce more quantity of milk. Artificial insemination is used to keep them lactating. Many times, these procedures aren’t carried out with properly sterilized instruments and cows get infected.
Cows are kept in narrow stalls where they are covered in their own feces. Living in captivity, these cows often develop mastitis, an infection of udders, from rough handling and rumen acidosis from unwholesome food. This has reduced their average lifetime from 25 to 10 years.
On birth, calves are separated from their mothers within 24 hours. This might even look like a necessary evil. If Ramu is a farmer who owns 6 cows, he has to use 1 acre of land to feed them. In every year, the cows are impregnated, in three years, Ramu will have at least 18 more cattle of which 9 are likely to be male. His land is no longer enough to raise fodder for all of them. These calves are then sold to be eventually slaughtered. Sometimes, they are donated to temples where they die out from neglect and malnutrition. Which is worse raises a morality debate?
A self-sustainable system needs to be in place for these dairies. Organic methods of farming coupled with a biogas plant could solve economic problems with raising a livestock. Milk is a major source of protein in our diet. And we ought to ensure that the milk we are drinking is healthy and nutritious. As an aware consumer, we need to know the way our cows are being raised. Only happy cows give healthy milk.