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time to give up milk even in India?

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Wed Aug 08 2001 - 23:29:20 PDT

Dear Friends,

It is well known that by tradition the cow is given unparalleled 
respect in our country.  Aside from the traditional prayer
seeking "eternal good for all cows and holy people", I understand
that in days of yore the relationship between cows and humans was
symbiotic -- my father tells me that the cows in his village
would give warm milk of their own accord to those who desired it.
Such used to be the loving relationship between cows and people
in India.

In the U.S., however, the more I find out, the more I become 
disillusioned with the dairy industry. Milk is heavily marketed
as a wholesome, good for the body, drink. Since Hindus and
Vaishnavas in particular have a nostalgic, religious attachment 
to milk, these marketing statements hit home and we are very 
large, unwitting consumers of dairy products. We don't give a 
second thought to it and consider it part of our pure
vegetarian lifestyle. After all, Sri Krishna Paramatma was 
himself a cowherd. What could be more appropriate for a Vaishnava
than to drink milk?

But, is milk really that "vegetarian"? Cows here are treated 
like machines, confined to stalls and connected to machines 
without the fresh air, proper food, and loving kindness any 
creature deserves. Despite being double in price, I thought 
milk from organic farms was a viable alternative, with their 
non-hormone fed cows and grazing pastures, until I discovered 
that even in organic farms, aged and diseased cows which no 
longer produce milk are sold to beef factories (see ). Male calves, useless 
to the dairy industry, are invariably sold off to veal and 
leather producers at birth. The excuse given is that "these 
cows eat too much food and drink too much water to make it a 
viable option to keep them alive."

I was under the impression that dairy cows in India would
be treated better. Cows wander the streets freely and all cow products
are considered sacred.  Traditionally, concern for the cow
and calf extended so far as to wait until a calf was completely
done suckling before milking a cow for human purposes. In fact,
I understand it was considered a sin to forcibly remove a
calf from its mother. Only after the calf was satisfied was the 
leftover milk to be used for humans.

Given all this, imagine my horror to hear how dairy cows are
really treated in India: 

 Popular conception among Indians is that in our country the
 animal (cow or calf) is not killed, the calf is not deprived,
 and that there is enough milk left over for us to wallow in, so
 everyone can be happy and drink as much milk as he or she
 wants. In this land where milk is considered as amrut, people,
 especially the `pure vegetarians,' react with disbelief and
 sometimes scorn to hear doubts being cast over the ethics of
 consuming milk. Expression of open disbelief over reported
 accounts of conditions in milk production is followed by
 lengthy, multi-dimensional justifications of milk
 consumption. It is the purpose of the next section to show the
 assumptions of these people to be WRONG...

 The reality of milk: male infanticide 

 Killing of calves happens all over India, from rural cooperatives
 to urban dairies that supply milk to customers. People unwilling
 to believe this fact are referred to a 1987 report[4] produced by
 the government itself, in which is admitted on page 30 that
 "Rearing male buffalo calves, and calves born in dairies, now
 being killed off soon after birth ...", and on page 100 that
 "...5 to 8 million buffalo calves are done to death immediately
 after birth."  These figures are for 1987. With the Jersey cow
 population explosion nowadays, the number of `worthless' calves
 produced and killed has increased manyfold. There is even a
 morbid term, kaTra, (kTra) now, coined for the unwanted male calf
 condemned to be `cut up' by the butcher. Figure 1 shows such
 calves being led to slaughter.

 The killing is done by a host of methods: starvation (being
 "allowed to die"), crude methods like burying the calves in a
 dung heap (reported in a buffalo dairy outside Pune), feeding
 them contaminated water after one week's starvation following
 birth, or, most commonly, by selling them off to the butcher. And
 why does it happen? Because we compete with the calf for its
 mother's milk. We, who do not need the milk of cows, get to drink
 it for our taste and our mistaken beliefs of its necessity for
 our health. And the calves, for whom the milk was made and
 intended by nature, are starved of it!

 Male calves of buffalos and Jersey cows, in particular, are
 uniformly condemned to death since they are not useful later for
 either tilling the soil, drawing loads, or milking, and
 therefore represent only a drain on the dairyman's wealth if
 raised and looked after. Feeding milk to the male calf doesn't
 fetch any return. He becomes a kTra. Such are the shocking
 realities of our culture of ahimsa: to call the cow our gomata
 and consider her body to be the abode of 33 crore gods but to
 simultaneously feel nothing in doing her children-our foster
 siblings, the calves-to death by fighting over her milk.

 The customer puts his taste buds above everything else. The
 milkman puts his commercial interests above everything
 else. Between them, the loser is the animal, who the customer
 likes to believe is not harmed, simply because he cannot see
 blood in his milk like is visible on meat.

 The situation in India today is that there is hardly any milk
 available in the cities that can be described as obtained
 without killing the make calf and causing deprivation to the
 spared calf.  If the animal is a cow, the offspring has a good
 chance of surviving, since the cow fortunately enjoys a special
 position in the hearts of Hindus, and farming (livestock and
 agriculture) in India is mostly done by Hindus. Therefore he
 would not usually kill the calf of a cow unless under
 life-and-death economic compulsion. Unfortunately the buffalo
 enjoys no such privilege and is invariably condemned to death.

What do you all think about this? Is it time to give up drinking
commercially produced milk? Is it not a violation of the
Vaishnava dharma to participate in such injury?

It pains me to no end to read how we torture our fellow beings.

  "ahimsA prathamam pushpam ... 
   sarva-bhUta-dayA pushpam ...
   vishnoH prItikaram bhavet"

  "Non-injury and compassion to all living creatures
   are two of the flowers which truly please Vishnu."


           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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