Abandonment and Disposal: A struggle or choice

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While industries across the nation find a way to deal with waste and products of ‘no commercial value’ to them, the dairy industry looks out to NGOs and organizations to take care of their non-productive living bi-products.

Bangalore: Waking up before the sunrise, cleaning the udder, slowly pulling down the base of teat to squeeze the milk out of a cow is how a dairy farmer starts his day. From feeding her, cleaning her and taking care of her, the routine of a dairy farmer revolves around his cows.

A dairy farmer feeds, cleans and takes care of the cattle.

But, the dairy farmers find it hard to put male cows to use; only some use them for ploughing. Since there is not much to be yielded from the male cows, they add to the expense of the dairy farmers.

The only way these farmers deal with this is by giving the cows and calves up to the temples and gaushalas. The irony is that all the gaushalas are currently running full capacity, leading to lack of space for providing shelter to the homeless, abandoned cows

Since the cow slaughter ban has been in practice, the number of abandoned cows has increased in the state. Neither the farmers nor the gaushalas are able to provide shelter to these cows, leaving them homeless.

Increase in abandonment has led to full occupancy of shelters

Under the Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Act, 2020, slaughter of cow, calf, bull, bullock, buffalo (male and female) is banned.

The exemption in this law is that buffaloes over the age of 13, certified by a competent authority, used for medical research, certified by a vet to slaughter to prevent the spread of any disease or very sick cattle can be slaughtered.

Dairy farmers find it difficult to dispose the dead cattle. Most of the farmers have said that they fear giving up the dead cows to slaughter houses now, since there’s absence of proper legal mechanism. They seek a mechanism that ensures that bodies of cows that die naturally can be handed over to slaughterhouses.

Mrs. Chandrakala, wife of a dairy farmer in Rajajinagar said, “Earlier when the slaughter ban was not imposed in the state, we used to hand over the male cows to the ‘muslim men’. They’d come and take the cows.” (The people she referred to are butchers and slaughter house owners and workers.) “Now, my husband calls someone from an ashram and they come to take the cows,” she added.

  • Shelters that can’t shelter:

Akhil Prani Daya Sangha is the biggest Gaushala in the city. They shelter more than 1200 cows. Of these, 600 to 700 are male cows. Seventy to 75 percent of the male cows are castrated. The cows are kept separately, bifurcated on the basis of breeds and genders.

Most of the cows in the gaushala are indigenous, 17 out of 43 identified Indian breeds are sheltered in this gaushala.

Rajat, a volunteer who works at the gaushala said, “We have been getting requests and queries for providing shelter to cows. Since we are running full capacity already, it’s difficult to cater to everyone right now.”

“We do have a shelter construction in progress, once that is complete, we’d happily shelter many more cows,” he added.

Their monthly expenditure on fodder, maintenance and salaries costs Rs. 40 lakh per month. Their source of funds are donations and offerings, sale of cow dung and gomutra, sale of milk, products made of cow dung (incense sticks, etc.)

Varada Krishna Dasa, president of Iskcon Temple, HBR layout said, “We have very little space, therefore we can only shelter a limited number of cows. Currently we have 60 cows, eight of them are male.”

He added that if the government allots some land, he’s willing to use it for constructing shelter for more cows.

  • Disposing of the carcass:

Varada said that there were specific pieces of land allotted by the government for the burial of cattle. “ Unfortunately, these lands are encroached by the villagers and that’s why we have to take the dead bodies of cows to the outskirts of the city, look for an abandoned land and bury them there,” he added.

Some of the small scale dairy farmers around Kumbalgodu-Golahalli, Devgere and surrounding taluks said that they don’t know how to dispose of the dead cattle. They have been disposing off the dead cows on the banks of Vrishbhavathi River.

Rajat, volunteer at the Akhil Prani Daya Sangha said, “We have a specific one acre land devoted for the burial of cows. If any cow dies in the gaushala, we ritually bury them in that land, inside the premise of the gaushala.”

BBMP has pet crematories in the city, but mostly, only small animals are buried there. A spokesperson for the crematorium said that they hardly get two or three cows for disposal.

Therefore, absence of specific land allotted for cattle disposal makes it difficult for dairy farmers to deal with the dead cattle.Since, there’s absence of proper legal procedure for giving the dead animal to a slaughter house after the slaughter ban, dairy farmers have said that it has become even more difficult for them to dispose the carcass.

  • Alternatives and Expert Advice:

Gauri Maulekhi, animal rights advocate and trustee of People for Animals (PFA) said that like any other industry, dairy industry should take full responsibility of the bi-products that are of no use or ‘commercial value’ to them.

“If there’s an added expense of these non-productive cattle, the dairy farmers need to factor in the cost in the product they are selling. The farmers can use the dung collected these non-productive cows and put that to use,” she said.

The volunteers working in Akhil Prani Daya Sangha are working on a project that deals in up-cycling of cow dung. Male cows contribute in gomutra and cow dung. They have an acre full of cow dung that they use to form compost and send across to the state farmers.

Gauri said, “A lot of trees are being cut these days to make logs because of the number of cremations. The dairy farmers can make dung logs and they will not only help the dairy farmers, but also contribute in saving some part of the environment.”

Several reports state that firewood can be easily replaced by cow dung. It not only saves the environment by keeping trees safe, the amount of carbon emitted while burning dung is also less.

“The dairy farmers in a specific area can team up with milk cooperatives or livestock development boards and contribute to set up small rendering plants/units. Taking full responsibility of their work, just like any other industry does,” Gauri added.

Dr. Arun Anand, an associate professor (Veterinary Surgery) said that the issue of abandonment and disposal of cattle has been prevalent in our country since years. “Dairy farmers have always struggled with putting male cows to use. I have witnessed animals being disposed in open. People de-skin the carcass and the rest is left to decay.”

Dr. Anand feels that there’s a strong need for dairy farmers and the industry to come together as this will help in solving the issue of animal disposal. “The dairy farmers will not only be able to dispose the animal in a way that does no harm to the environment, but also earn a little extra by giving the carcass up to the industry.”

“We need calcium, phosphorus and various other minerals for children and adults as well. Not many people are aware of the fact that cows are an essential source for several things we use. Therefore, the need for this tie-up between the dairy farmers and the industry is essential,” he added.

Prof. Parveen Kaur, head of Environmental Studies department, said that the environment is severely affected by the open disposal of animals. “There are times when before death, the animal is poisoned or has some chemicals injected, vultures and other scavengers who feed on them, die because of feeding on the carcass.” “The gases emitted by the carcass affects the environment, chemicals from the body harm the land and all of this leads to a lot of environmental decay,” she added.


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