Lucknow: In the sweltering morning heat, flies are not the only guests feasting on garbage dumped on the side of a road. Cows lumber through the dirt, trying to bite through polythene covers hoping to munch on rotten vegetables or kitchen refuse.
In the process, many ingest the entire package plastic bags, rotten food and garbage. Veterinarians say that over time, there is a huge build-up of plastic in their stomachs, along with other indigestible inorganic materials. This results in a drastic reduction in their milk production ability, and in many cases death.
‘While self-styled cow protection groups, calling themselves gau rakshaks, have indulged in widespread vigilantism under the garb of protection of cattle, there has been little effort to save cattle from the real threat to their survival urban garbage, open dumps and apathy of cow owners.
After a post-mortem of a cow was performed in Lucknow, almost 100 kg of plastic was found in its system.
‘What people do while throwing out garbage is that they put vegetable peels, dirt, etc in a plastic cover and then throw it,’ said Vineet Arora, the treatment head at Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Noida. Virtually, no household segregates organic waste from plastic and glass, he said. Plastic utensils, covers and even razors mix with vegetable and fruit peels and leftover food, he said.
This happens every day but none bothers to clean the mess or take care of the cows, says a vendor. He said that apathy and poverty have made sure that these benign bovines are doomed to a very poor way of life.
Most of the cows are owned by dairy farmers who let their animals loose in the city streets to look for free food instead of feeding them.
‘The ones who ingest plastic are not able to eat proper food after that. They can consume only one or two kilos of fodder. The plastic in a cow’s system affects the milk, they are not able to produce milk properly, and because of all the dirt in its system, it is not good milk,’ said Arora.
‘As their milk producing capacity declines, they are abandoned by their owners who have no further use for the dry cows.
Cows that eat plastic, and do not eat healthy food, are not able to give milk. They die quickly as they are undernourished and vulnerable to diseases which is why people abandon them on the roads.
A ban on plastic items and restricted use by people, recently implemented in Madhya Pradesh, has found backing among animal protectionists and the gaushala caretakers.
A complete ban on such items along with responsible disposal of inorganic waste is necessary to protect animals on the street who rely on dustbins for food, a gaushala worker said. ‘We should implement a blanket ban on plastic.
People should take care to not throw plastic items used in households on the road along with food items, and we should restrict plastic use,’ said Gopal Agarwal, president of a charitable trust that runs the Sree Ji Gau Sadan in Noida.