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Keeping cattle outside municipal city limits essential

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Keeping cattle outside municipal city limits essential

We need to widen our strategy to reduce stray cattle on the one hand and development of innovative technology for proper utilization of stray cattle resources on the other hand...

Keeping cattle outside municipal city limits essential


We Asked: Do you think cattle farms should be situated only on the outskirts and keeping cows in city areas, thus letting them roam the urban streets, should be banned?

The plight of stray cows, bulls and calves in urban India is well known. But I have learnt over the years that seemingly stray cattle in urban areas are not ownerless. They do have owners living in the city itself, who let their cattle roam freely in residential and commercial areas for lack of open spaces or maidans where these cattle would traditionally have roamed. But often these cattle get hit by speeding vehicles and are injured badly. Else they are seen suffering from various diseases and their owners could not care less about getting them treated. I have also observed that old and retired bulls will often congregate at chaurahas (crossings), much like old men congregate at the village chaupals to discuss village matters. Green fodder is very hard to provide for cattle being kept within city limits. At least in the village they can forage by the river or nullah edge. It is a shame that traditional pasture lands have been encroached upon even in the villages or have been shamelessly gifted away by political leaders to landless  communities in the hope of winning their votes. Some Indian municipalities have passed laws to keep cattle outside city limits. But these laws or orders are hardly ever implemented. The cattle keepers are all meant for precious vote banks of political parties and implementing such laws strictly would alienate these voters. In Varanasi, one can find cows and buffaloes being kept in almost every street. They provide milk for the lassi and sweets in shops that dot Varanasi, but they also cause a ruckus now and then especially if they are trying to cross the roads during busy rush hours. So I firmly believe that keeping cattle outside municipal city limits is essential. While it may not lessen the suffering of these dumb creatures, it will at least lessen the number of accidents involving these stray (or otherwise) cattle. - Dr Anjali Pathak, writer, educator, consultant, and naturopath

Every time I have to slow down my car because there is a herd of cows or buffalos crossing without supervision, I feel the same sense of nervousness I had as an 8 year old child when my father’s Chevy Nova car was hit by a cow on our journey from New Delhi to Rampur. The purpose of the journey was to transport my aged paternal grandfather to my eldest uncle’s home. The passengers comprised one aged elder, one uncle, my parents and two children. We were within city limits when this cow came out of nowhere and bumped into the car hard enough to damage the side and shake up the passengers. Worse still, the crowd was ready to fight with us and sided with the cow’s owner. The cow was not hurt although we were frightened. Matters were resolved with a bit of cash but I know my Dad was not happy about the additional expenditure to get the vehicle fixed. As an adult, I appreciate the concept of urban livestock and its historical value. However, when looking at modern India’s urban livestock, it’s important to make a distinction between monogastric and ruminant systems (pigs, chickens and ducks versus cows, buffaloes and goats or sheep) as well as what regulations exist to allow peaceful co-existence between humans and these animals. Globally speaking, all cities where urban livestock are found differ from one another in size, development history, sociology and structure. Some cities opt for decentralized planning or laissez faire, others for centralized planning, and still others seem to have developed without any clear plans at all. Singapore is a typical case of a city with strong legislative measures, but in other cities hardly any effect is expected from legislation other than an increase in bribery. Keeping dairy cows may seem impossible in the heart of modern Mumbai or New Delhi and yet they abound. It’s common to see the stray cattle like cows, bulls and buffaloes etc. roaming the roads, highways, streets and in colonies of almost every city and town. Stray cattle are a traffic nuisance in cities and they also raid crops in villages. They are main cause of road accidents on highways at night. Farmers suffer from stray cattle because they destroy their crops. Even the keeping of dairy cows and/or goats can be quite acceptable in urban areas with much green, or where there are a lot of by-products from agro-industries. In fact, during the nineteenth century, urban dairies were quite important in areas around beer breweries in Copenhagen, Denmark and around distilleries in major United States. Dairy cows used to be a common sight in Copenhagen, where they cleaned-up leftovers from the beer breweries. Obviously, there was and is a point in keeping livestock in cities, either as a specialized enterprise or in combination with gardening and farming in and around the city. But in the Indian context, there are problems and challenges in urban livestock systems. Poverty, ignorance and lack of awareness or availability of veterinary services mean many of these stray cows might not be monitored for health by the authorities or any NGO but certainly there is a potential health hazard to public health as well as to animal health. I acknowledge that our ancient rural economy and livelihood was cow centric. Almost every village had gochar lands or grazing lands which was reserved exclusively for the cattle to graze on. Modern time’s problem arise because the animals we see on the street creating a nuisance are often also abandoned for lack of economic use by the dairy farmer or perhaps because of the loss of grazing land as urbanization leads to more concrete jungles than greenery. I believe we need to widen our strategy to reduce stray cattle on the one hand and development of innovative technology for proper utilization of stray cattle resources on other hand. Definitely get them off the streets of urban cities for their sake as well as for the human population. Banning is not the solution but providing a safe haven for them is. -Vatsala Shukla, executive coach empowering, connecting and supporting women professionals, & bestselling author

In principle, I am against all kinds of animal farms, because the modern version of farms is just another synonym of exploitation. However, keeping in mind that humankind will always be dependent on animal products, the best we can do for cattle farms, or even poultry farms, is to take them away from the large cities to semi urban or rural areas. Although, by doing so the price of milk or poultry will go up considerably, but this will force people to choose a largely vegetable diet. Cattle are left to roam the busy streets in cities, due to lack of space to house them in, putting them in danger of vehicular accidents and ingestion of garbage. In many dairies in over populated areas of a city, they are chained 24x7 till their last breath.  It can be hoped that in a rural area cattle would be able to graze in more near-natural environment. We can hope that if farms are situated in rural areas, it will lead to a more sustainable and environmentally low impact "family farming" culture where animals are fewer in number and hence taken better care of. Fodder will be easier to source locally, and will be cheaper as transportation costs will reduce, this making cost of farm products less. Ideally, rural areas are perfect to establish animal farms, as they will provide midway solutions to urban problems, fathers will depend less on middlemen, and products will have more competitive prices, making the market economically viable and healthy. Other than looking at animal farms as commercial set ups, there is nothing positive about using animals to the advantage of humans.- Shakuntala Majumdar, President - Thane SPCA

No doubt the cattle like cows and buffaloes are very useful for the society which are the source of milk and intern ghee, butter, cheese, curd, sweets and so many innumerable products that are required in every household. As of now these are more demanding in cities than in  rural areas so cattle farming is getting attracted towards cities. But when we weigh pros and cons, we find that natural abode of these cattle are rural areas as it provides grazing fields and natural green feeds. Huge quantity of water is required for them which is easily available in rural areas in the form of ponds and lakes. Cattle farming is also, like agriculture, the subject matter of farmers so must be practiced in rural areas and not in the city. When the cows and other cattle come on the streets of urban population, they become menace for the public. They come in the way of the fast life of the city and many a time they hit the fast moving vehicles making accidents and damaging and injuring the life and properties. Their herd slow down the pace of the fast traffic. They make the streets dirty. Many a time they enter the green belt and parks to damage their beauty. They also occupy a vast space in the crowded cities shortening the livable space. Livestock keeping are even harmful for urban environment and public health. Cattles kept in intensive system may be contaminated with pesticides. Cattle dung left to decompose on compounds and road side could act as source of harmful bacteria to humans beside bad odor. Tuberculosis, worms, and tetanus can be contacted in dense urban areas. Also, in urban areas they are more prone to eating plastic and heavy metals which are threat to themselves as well as humans. Intensification of livestock in urban areas can increase methane emission and other greenhouse gases which have effect on global warming. Thus it is always advisable to keep the livestock in rural area or at the most on the outskirts of the city. -VP Srivastava, Member Commercial Tax Tribunal (Retd), President C-CARBONS

Topic of the month: Do you think we need better medical facilities for animals and strays, along with a dedicated 24-hour ambulance service? You may send your views (either in Hindi or English) in 300 words at [email protected]. Please also attach a colour photo of yourself.

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