TITLE: Dairy production in India: Animal welfare implications and public perceptions. AUTHOR: J.A. Robbins. KEYWORDS: dairy production; dairy consumption; cows; buffaloes; animal welfare; India.
Jesse A. Robbins, PhD
Dairy consumption in India. Key points: 1) India is the world's largest dairy consumer. 2) Fluid milk and ghee makes up 3/4 of all dairy products consumed. 3) India's growing population, affluence, demographic changes, and liberalized trade policies are expected to contribute to increased dairy demand.
Dairy production in India. Key points: 1) Launched in 1970, Operation Flood spread the cooperative dairy model throughout India and vastly increased dairy production. 2) Today, India is world's largest milk producer with more than 80 million farmers and 500 million cattle. 3) Both cattle and buffalo are raised for milk production but productivity per animal is very low. 4) Most dairy farms are very small, but large commercial dairies are increasing. 5) Most dairy goes through unorganized markets; organized sector consists of cooperatives and private companies.
How animal welfare is assessed on dairy farms, and the major dairy animal welfare challenges in India. Key points: 1) Size of a farm is not associated with welfare status of the animals on that farm. 2) Most animal welfare challenges faced by dairy animals in India relate to lack of basic animal care, poor/uncomfortable housing, tethering and abandonment. 3) As dairy production in India intensifies, animal welfare will likely improve, but new animal welfare issues will emerge.
India’s unique socio-cultural context and how this shapes public debate about dairy cattle welfare. Key points: 1) Cattle has sacred status. 2) India is home to the D'harmic religions which place high value on the principle of non-harm to animals (Ahimsa). 3) Cattle slaughter is banned or restricted in many states, leading farmers to abandon unproductive cattle. 4) Indians appear divided on the animal welfare implications of intensified dairy farming.
Recommendations for front-line persons interested in the animal welfare implications of the Indian dairy sector. 1) Prioritize public outreach to most receptive demographic (younger, educated, affluent, females, pet owners). 2) Conduct pilot studies to benchmark dairy animal welfare and actual consumer demand for animal-friendly products. 3) Organize symposia where farmers, dairy scientists, animal ethicists and religious authorities can discuss relationship between dairy farming, animal welfare, and religion in India. 4) Focus on animal welfare issues, not farm size/type.