Can India Really Afford To Kill Cattle Anymore?

Maneka Ghandi

Maneka Gandhi is an environmentalist and animal rights leader in India and belongs to the Nehru-Gandhi political clan. She was a magazine editor and columnist before authoring several books on law, etymology and animal welfare. Her articles regularly feature in newspapers and magazines. She started PFA (People for Animals, http://www.peopleforanimalsindia.org/) which is now the largest animal rights organization in India. It’s shelters are known world wide for the immense work in animal welfare.

I have over two hundred letters on my table complaining about illegal cow slaughter. Many of these complainants are groups who have stopped trucks stuffed with cows and calves, many of them dead of suffocation and injuries, only to have the police take a bribe and let the animals go.

Government looks the other way and boasts that we have the largest leather and meat export in the world. The fact that the entire leather industry is made from the skins of illegally killed cows or that the meat has come from young milch cows and their babies is irrelevant to them. The police are delighted with this crime – each truck pays the chungies and each policeman takes home thousands of bribe rupees every day from this killing. Every time we stop a truck, it is the policeman who defends and release the truck with its suffering cargo of squashed animals. Every week there is a cow selling fair in each district, supposedly for farmers. No farmer goes there to buy. The slaughter mafia brings their trucks and pick up hundreds of animals. One person who tried to stop this in Haryana was arrested by the police on the complaint of criminals, that she was stopping their work.

Go to Bihar – most villages have no cows in them. In Andhra Pradesh rustling is a major crime – people who hold up villagers at gunpoint and take their animals for slaughter. One old woman who tried to stop a cattle truck in Gorantla, Anantapur was beaten up in full sight of the village and the police. No one intervened as the men had guns. Within ten years we will have no cows. The story of the tiger is being repeated. The government kept giving false figures to the world – we have 9000 tigers or more. When an actual headcount was done, we have less than 300 and the killing continues. We have more tigers in the zoos than in the wild, the same with the cows. Government has convinced itself that we have the largest cattle population in the world with one crore cows. Do a headcount there will be less than 20 lakh left. Anybody in rural India can tell you that. Find me a cow in Punjab or Rajasthan or even Madhya Pradesh.

The cows in the gaushalas are not any better off. Most of the gaushala managers who have been gifted the land by the government to protect cows, now run them as dairies for their own milk. The Balkeshwar gaushala in Agra has a tie up with butchers who take the non milking cows every month. In Mathura, the home of Krishna and the cows, you cannot find a single calf in any gaushala as they have all been sold because the milk of their mothers is for the gaushala managers. Hundreds of cows were sent by the Uttar Pradesh Animal Husbandry Minister to Lakhimpur Kheri – supposedly to clear the streets of Lucknow. Most of them were sold by the truckers on the way to butcher shops. The few that arrived were immediately brought from the government gaushala by the meat traders, under the benign eye of the district magistrate. In Rajasthan, in Sirohi, the district magistrate gives false certificates every day to the cow traders and if the trucks are caught by activists, they are beaten by the police.

In Mumbai, the Muslims like eating only pregnant and milking cows. I have film footage of cows that are being milked ten minutes before their heads are sawn off. Their udders are sold with the meat so that the buyer knows he is eating the flesh of a mother.

The Minister for Agriculture, Sharad Pawar, who owns piggeries and poultries himself and calls himself a “modern” farmer dismisses the entire killing as the disposal of useless animals. When people try and justify animal slaughter and meat export on the basis of earning money, it would be wise to look at the actual economic contribution of these so-called useless animals that you kill. A study by the Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering put out the following figures five years ago.

Our 73 million (this number is of 1990) draught animals work equivalent to 27 million megawatts of energy which means not only savings in terms of coal and other raw materials but also in terms of land for power projects and in pollution from noxious gases, effluents and flyash.

They provide approx 100 million tonnes of dry dung a year costing Rs 5000 crores which saves 50 million tonnes of firewood which again means that many trees saved and more environmental damage prevented. It is calculated that if these 73 million animals were to be replaced, we would need 7.3 million tractors at the cost of 2.5 lac each which would amount to an investment of 180,000 crores. In addition 2 crore, 37 lakh and 50 thousand tonnes of diesel which would mean another 57,000 crore rupees. This is how much we owe these animals, and this is what we stand to lose by killing them.

Loss of cattle deprives us of dung for fuel and fertiliser which means loss of biogas and trees cut for firewood. In 1994, India for the first time had to import cow dung from Holland while chemical fertiliser import has gone up from about 1 crore in 1960 to about Rs 450 crores in 1990 to triple that in 2005.

Look at our other imports of animal products: Import of milk and milk powder has risen from 6 tonnes in 1950 to 65 tonnes in 1990 while butter oil has gone from half a tonne to 16 and a half tonnes. Again triple that for 2006.

16 lakh litres of water are needed daily to keep ONE moderate sized slaughterhouse clean. That is drinking water for 30 lakh people. Can a water and energy starved country like India really afford to kill cattle anymore?

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