India needs to manage its stray cattle problem

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stray cattle problem

Would you say that you love animals? Perhaps some would say they love cats, while others would like to bet on dogs, but does loving either of them really makes you an animal lover? As per the definition, an animal lover is a person who displays affection or concern for animals. But the majority of us are divided on the type of animal we actually like. Yet, most of these animal lovers are not really animal lovers, because they may house a dog, make him feel like a family member, but by the end of the day they would enjoy eating turkey at the dining table. So, there is a sort of inconsistency in the pattern that makes this definition less authentic.

In India especially, animals hold a great value in our culture. Not just in response to our emotions but also with the diverse religions we offer. The affection, particularly with cows is deeply sentimental in Hinduism. The cow is considered as a mother by Hindus of India and thus they find it highly objectionable to mistreat this cattle. But this growing affection for cattle has now become a problem with the country’s love for animals.

India needs to think beyond cowsheds to manage the issue of stray cattle.

Buffaloes and cows roaming on the street is a common sight in India. This scene is not limited to just rural areas of the country but for a metro city like Delhi, this scene is much common. And despite multiple government interventions, the problem still persists. There are currently, 5 million stray cattle in India.

stray cattle problem

India is an agriculture-based country, and cattle predominantly play an important role in the process. These cattle include cows, bulls, oxen, or calves. We have diverse biodiversity with around 43 indigenous cattle breeds and 13 Buffalo breeds. And maybe this is the reason why cows and bulls are considered sacred in the country. According to Hinduism, they do not worship cows like a god in fact they consider it a sacred symbol and has sentimental values attached with it. They are thus protected and revered.

Additionally, India is the largest milk-producing country in the world and its dairy sector is growing yearly at the rate of 4.9%. In 2020, 4.2% of India’s GDP was due to dairy production. There are approximately 3,030 gaushalas in the country out of which 1325 are run by the husbandry department. But behind this blooming market lies the dirty reality of abandonment. This business came at cost of cows and buffaloes.

In most parts of the country, the cowshed owners fail to provide an adequate diet and shelter to the cattle and thus they are left to roam on the streets. The pathetic situation of cattle does not end here, when these cattle pass the age of milk production they are abandoned by their owner. And because killing a cow is considered highly offensive in India, they are left on the streets of the city. And though there are laws to protect these animals, they haven’t made any difference. According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, it prohibits any person from inflicting, causing, or if it is the owner, permitting, unnecessary pain or suffering to be inflicted on any animal. Yet the problem ceases to exist.

It is known that owners abandon cattle after losing its utility. These cattle then roam on the streets in search of food and shelter. The public parks become their shelter and the streets become their lavatories. Sometimes, local people come forward to feed them, but after a day or two, they stop. And so these cattle can be seen everywhere in the country causing numerous accidents. Each year almost 500 people are killed due to stray cows, either in terms of accidents or other cow vigilante cases. Another factor contributing to stray cattle is that from the past few years concerns are given to crossbreeding and the indigenous ones are neglected. Thus, together these factors add to the population of cattle.

stray cattle problem

A few times, after losing the utility, some farmers also sell these cattle to slaughterhouses to gain monetary profit. Several states like U.P and Maharashtra along with other states governed by BJP enacted strong laws to prevent cattle slaughter. But these acts, however, could save unwanted slaughter but they cannot address the core problem. To cater to the growing cattle population in the country, the government of India started an initiative called Rashtriya Gokul Mission, under which the central government has supported gaushalas to adopt stray cattle and provide them a space to live.

But due to an inadequate overview, these gaushalas owners do adopt cows to gain profit from the scheme but later desert them. And because there is corruption on the ground level, the life of these cattle remain unchanged. Thus, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation has come up with an ambitious plan on implanting digital chips in the cattle after the name of their owners. Using the chip, they can easily track cattle owners and fine them.

Given the complexity of the problem, alone gaushalas are not sufficient to solve the problem. The government needs to think out of the box to solve the issue on the ground level. The first approach could be understanding the merits and demerits of all the cattle and the breed they belong to like defined breeds, uniform breeds, crossbreeds, and non-descript cattle. This way, their milk quality could be studied and could help in identifying whose milk is more beneficial. They should also emphasize catering to Indian breeds over exotic breeds as they have the advantage of producing A2 quality milk.

This way the unwanted cross-breeding of the cattle can stop as they have a high risk of abandonment due to low milk yield. The stray cattle can also be used as draft animals in remote areas where mechanization is still not common. They can also be used in farms not just as draft animals but because they provide an excellent source of manure. The cow waste whether being dung or urine can make high-quality manure which can be very beneficial in farming.

Thus, these small easy approaches could be a starting point in redefining the cattle issue of the country where cows hold deep meaning. Because if we look at these cattle closely, they have numerous benefits to offer rather than be a menace for society.

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