Should children drink beer?

A campaign against dairy products has been launched by an overzealous NGO

Published: Saturday 30 June 2001

The cartoons shoved into the faces of schoolchildren in the United Kingdom by the members of a ngo screamed that they would fall sick if they drank milk. Milk would disfigure their faces with horrible acne or cause globules of mucus to flow out of their mouths every time they attempted to speak. The idea was to get them to stop drinking milk. This is not the first time this particular ngo has been in the news. Known as the People for Ethical Treatment for Animals ( peta ) they have staged protests in India too regarding what they term is inhuman treatment of animals. Tomorrow they could stage a similar protest against dairy products in India too. However dairy products or milk production is not a priority with the Indian farmer. Livestock serve several vital functions in the rural economy apart from providing milk, meat and leather. One must never forget that food security; economic well being and agriculture are closely interlinked with livestock in poor nations like India. For an urban Indian, livestock means products like milk and meat. But for seventy five per cent of India, which lives in the villages, it means transport, power, fertiliser and food.

The 450-million strong livestock in India depends on a mere 12 million hectares for green fodder. They are essential for our food security as they provide organic manure in the face of declining soil fertility. Non-mechanised transport, namely livestock, carries more than five times the freight and four times the passenger traffic than the Indian Railways. Carrying small loads over short distances is only possible through carts.

Animal care and dairy farming are a vital part of the Indian economy contributing eight per cent of the gross national product. Livestock sustains the poorest of the poor and provides renewable energy and manure. When rural folk have to abandon their livestock they are reduced to misery. Therefore Indians would be well advised to stay away from situations that promote anti-dairy product campaigns that could someday turn into anti-poor campaigns for countries like India.

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