India’s Feral Cows, Urban Cowboys, and Milk Mafia

The International Herald Tribune recently published a story “Urban cowboys take on Delhi’s Sacred Cows” about Braveer Singh, one of Delhi’s 164 cow catchers, assigned to remove the thousands of “stray” cattle that roam the city’s streets blocking traffic, foraging through garbage, and um… eliminating their cow patties.

Hindus consider cows sacred animals, and their slaughter is banned throughout most of India. Cows are frequently allowed to wander where they please, even in cities, where Indians tend to view them much the way Americans and Europeans regard pigeons – an unpleasant but intractable part of the urban landscape.

But unlike pigeons, the cows that roam Delhi streets came to be a part of this landscape through different means.

The article cites opposition of the removal of the cows from some Hindus:

Religious Hindus, who sometimes feed the stray cattle found near temples, have on rare occasions been known to pelt cow catchers with stones.

The cruelty towards cows does not orginate in the lasso round-up on the streets.  Most of the cows are owned or have been discarded by illegal dairies operating in the city.  I wrote an article for Satya, “What would Krishna Drink?” addressing some of these issues a few years ago.  And while there is some sentiment of respect for cows, there is not enough attention on dairies.

Peta-India and others have documented the cruelty inside India’s dairy industry.  India is the world’s largest producer of milk, and as urban dairies increase, they bring with them social and environmental problems.  These issues will be explored in an upcoming Brighter Green case study and policy paper on the globalization of factory farming.

The IHT article explains what the fate of urban cow reigned in will be:

Once the cow catchers capture their daily quota of 9 to 10 cows, they drive the cattle to a city office to be registered. Workers use a long pipe-like gun to shoot a microchip down the cow’s esophagus.

The city used to auction off the cows it seized. Winning bidders had to certify that they would take the animals outside city limits. But officials found that buyers routinely violated this promise. So now, once the cows have been registered, the cow catchers deliver them to one of five government-approved cow sanctuaries on the outskirts of the city.

These shelters are run by Hindu charities but receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional funding from the city. In theory, the microchips are supposed to keep the shelters honest, preventing them from selling the cows back to illegal dairies or turning them loose.

But the cow catchers say it is not uncommon to capture the same animals twice. Virpal Singh said dairies sometimes use political connections to force the city to release seized cows. And Gupta said that the influence of this “milk mafia” is the single biggest factor standing in the way of Delhi meeting the court order.


~ by sangamithra on October 21, 2008.

One Response to “India’s Feral Cows, Urban Cowboys, and Milk Mafia”

  1. the thought of factory farming being globalzied is horrifying. thanks for the informative post.

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