Bad news for those still looking for gold in cow milk

Govt ‘admits’ no conclusive information available on difference in quality of milk of foreign breeds and indigenous cattle

cow milk

This may not cheer up those who are selling ‘high quality’ cow milk in fancy bottles, but the government has now said that milk from desi cows is the same as from foriegn origin breeds. According to a report in The Telegraph, though initially it had claimed that the milk from Indian cows contains “traces of gold” and is superior to the milk from foreign cows, the government has now said that is not true.

The minister of state for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying, Sanjeev Balyan answered a question in Parliamentary saying, “As per the information received from ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), there is no conclusive information available regarding the difference between the quality of milk of foreign breeds of cows and indigenous cattle.”

Balyan was responding to a question from YSR Congress MP Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy. This official dismissal is in contrast to the ‘superior quality of Indian cow breeds’ claim made by the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA), under Balyan’s own ministry. The RKA, had even announced an online exam last month to educate people, and then test their knowledge of, the virtues of Indian cow breeds.  According to The Telegraph, nearly half a million people in India and around the world had registered to take part. However the exam was called off at the last moment, reportedly because of opposition within the ministry to the “unscientific” claims being touted by RKA in the syllabus for the exam, stated the news report.

On February 12, University Grants Commission (UGC) Secretary Rajnish Jain had even written to all VCs to ensure “wide publicity to this initiative”, and to ‘encourage’ students to register for the examination ‘cow science’.

This was to be the RKA’s first major ‘public exam’ and was titled: Kamdhenu Gau-Vigyan Prachar-Prasar Examination. It had  five categories for students: primary (up to class 8), secondary (from Class 9 to 12), college and university students, the general public and Non Resident Indians were also allowed to enrol for the exam. 

As widely reported in 2020, West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh advocated drinking cow urine to ward off Covid-19. In 2019 he had claimed that “desi cows have a hump on their back” and that “the hump has a ‘Swarna nari’. When sunlight falls on the hump, it produces gold.”

A blog on the RKA website claimed that experiments had “successfully identified more than 752 compounds found in cow urine having immense medicinal value.” This was based on a  study from Junagadh University, reported the Telegraph. The RKA also claimed that a host of illnesses could be cured by the milk from Indian cows, including “obesity, joint pain, asthma, mental illness”. It added that, conversely, the milk from foreign cows could trigger these illnesses. The syllabus took particular aim at the Jersey cow which it described as “lazy” and prone to disease. Indian cows, it said, followed hygienic practices being “hardy and clever enough not to sit at dirty places.”

These claims have then been given publicity by many online influencers. Such claims have also provided power to those who claim to work to protect cows, and call themselves gau rakshaks. However, according to the news reports, agricultural experts have debunked most of the RKA’s claims as being far-fetched. They point out that the real problem for Indian livestock is that artificial insemination over the last four-to-five decades has created a situation where it is impossible to find pure cattle breeds, stated the news report. It quoted Vikas Rawal, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for Economic Studies and Planning saying, “Breed surveys show 80 percent of cattle are unidentifiable. You have a complete mix of breeds.”

So even if the milk from Indian cow breeds were superior to foreign ones, pure desi cows are thin on the ground. According to him cross-breeding and artificial insemination have been done mainly to increase milk yields, “Artificial insemination has helped to increase milk production. This means the identifiable cattle population has shrunk hugely.”

Meanwhile, more than the ‘special’ properties attributed to desi cows’ milk, there are stringent laws in place for the protection of cows in India. The Ministry of Law and Justice has prepared a draft of Lakshadweep Animal Preservation Regulation, 2021, and placed it in public domain for comments from the public till March 28. This draft proposes a total ban on slaughter of cow, calf of a cow (females and males), bull, bullock with punishment of life imprisonment in case of violation. On December 9, 2020, the Karnataka Legislative Assembly passed the Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 2020 prohibiting slaughter of cows, buffalos, and bulls under 13 years of age. 

In an environment that is fast getting vitiated due to increasing incidents of cow vigilantism and violence in the name of cow protection, here is a reckoner of the Cow Protection Laws in Indian states. The Law has created both, the legal and institutional backdrop, within which gau rakshaks and lynch mobs can operate with impunity. 



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