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Mother cows and calves are illegally slaughtered, every single day, as one PETA activist reported from her visit to the slaughterhouse in Tangra.

Cruel Milk
by Nirguna devi dasi

During an investigation PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was conducting on illegal cattle transport, I had occasion to work with them in Calcutta. Over a period of some months we tracked the transport of cows from Punjab. Uttar Pradesh, the State closest to Bengal, does not permit cattle transportation across its border to Bengal as the government is against cow slaughter. Therefore only female cows are transported on the pretext of milk, although there will be an occasional bull too.

Calcutta has the largest leather processing unit in India. West Bengal and Kerala are the only States in India where cow slaughter is legal. These cows are brought in, several times a week, sometimes more than 40 wagonloads full, ostensibly for milk. The milk-men milk the cows for a few months; the cows are then sold to leather merchants and a fresh lot of mother cows is brought in from Punjab.

The demand for leather has created a nexus between these Hindu milk sellers and cattle traders and leather manufacturers. The high price that leather commands belies the claim that leather is a "by-product."

I have seen all this first hand and spoken to an insider (cattle trader turned go-raksha worker) who had a change of heart and decided he could not be in this business anymore because it was sheer exploitation and very sinful. Mother cows and calves are illegally slaughtered, every single day, as one PETA activist reported from her visit to the slaughterhouse in Tangra.

At the station platform I have seen male calves left to die, their eyes and wounds picked at by crows, whilst people from the locality or milk sellers come to the same platform as soon as the train arrives to collect the milk from these traumatized cows that have just traveled cross country. The male calves have been starved — kept away from their mothers during transportation (about seven days) and are usually just in the very last stages of their lives by the time the train comes in.

These are just some of the indelible impressions imprinted in my mind about the cruelty of milk here.

The death marches across the borders are even more grisly and are documented on the PETA website http://www.petaindia.com/clreport.html and in a recently published poem on Chakra.

Any milk or diary product that is purchased from the market, any sweetmeat, is thus laced with the suffering of countless cows.

Illegal use of Oxytocin injections cause the cow to let down the milk faster and causes lameness and harms the reproductive system so that the cow is rendered sterile prematurely and then sent to the slaughter house 10 years before her natural lifespan is over.

"No Cow lives out her normal lifespan. She is milked, made sick and then killed" ( Maneka Gandhi)

Large dairies in India and even the local milkmen do not graze the cows. In fact, cows are tightly tethered in narrow stalls in their own excrement and develop excruciating udder infections like mastitis. Antibiotics, hormones and other drugs, which find their way into the milk, are administered regularly and indiscriminately. All these have harmful side effects for the cow as well as for those who drink the milk.

Often they have sores and again I have seen footage of Arey diary— one of the largest in Mumbai —where crows are picking on the wounds of the cattle that are tethered so tightly in cramped stalls that they can barely move, what to speak of rest.

Shortage of space also results in, according to Dr. Kurien, the founder of Amul, India’s largest producer of milk products, over 80,000 calves ( buffalo and cow) forcibly starved to death in Mumbai alone, as it is uneconomical to raise male calves.

Then there is the age-old Indian diary custom of phookan, illegal by law, but which is practiced on thousands of cows daily. As soon as the cow’s milk decreases a stick is poked into her uterus and manipulated, causing her intense pain in the belief that this stress will lead to a gush of more milk in the udder.

This immense cruelty to the cow aside, enough on its own to demand action, the factor of how this treatment affects human consumers deserves mention: possible hormonal imbalances from oxytocin, early development in adolescent females, and damage to the reproductive system. Prolsactin is another milk-stimulating drug that causes spasms and muscle contractions. A survey by the National Diary Development Board found that a great deal of cattle suffer from tuberculosis or brucellosis. Humans run the risk of catching Andulan disease, which results in the swelling of joints, reduced fertility, and even sterility.

Milkmen are known to add urea purchased from fertilizer shops into the milk that is transported by truck so that the milk does not curdle.

As much as I have come to appreciate the tenacity with which PETA and other animal rights groups champion the cause of animals, I am also grateful that Srila Prabhupada’s legacy for cow protection has been kept alive as a viable alternative. Chayadevi and Balabhadra Prabhus and their family have been admirably and tirelessly trying to keep this vision of Prabhupada’s in circulation. They have a solution to this problem and demonstrate its feasibility on their farm. Please visit them at http://www.iscowp.com to learn more about their program and how you can support their efforts.

We must seriously examine our claim that we regard the cow as Mother while being part, as consumers, of a system that is directly responsible for her abject suffering

© CHAKRA 8 October 2001

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