The Plastic Cow Project
THE PLASTIC COW
A Collective Effort to Save the Indian Cow from PlasticUPDATE! Encouraging Court Order Dated November 18, 2014: Click HERE!
What is The Plastic Cow?
In India, one of the most striking images is the cow wandering on the road. In cities, towns and villages numerous cows and bulls sit or wander peacefully, settling down to chew the cud. It gives the impression of a society living together peacefully with animals. The holy cow, the Mother of India is revered by all and, in most states, is not allowed to be slaughtered.
India has an open garbage system, which means open garbage bins on the roads overflowing with stinking waste. Dogs, monkeys, pigs, rats and cows eat whatever they can find to survive. The numbers of stray dogs, rats and monkeys are equal to the amount of garbage on which they feed and multiply.
In cities and towns, large numbers of cows on the roads eat from garbage bins, foraging for fruit and vegetable leftovers, anything edible and smelling like food.
Since plastic bags have invaded our lives, almost all garbage and food waste is disposed in plastic bags. These bags spill out either on the road or from municipality dustbins. Since the plastic bags are knotted at the mouth, cows, unable to undo the knot, eat food leftovers including the plastic. Slowly, over time, they build up a huge amount of plastic inside their stomachs. It gets entangled with different materials and it becomes hard like cement inside their rumens, which is the first belly of the cow.
These cattle, owned or stray, often obstruct traffic and cause accidents. The municipality removes the animals from the road to be sent to go-downs, goshalas (shelters designed for cows), temples or they are simply dumped at the garbage landfills on the outskirts of the city. From there they “disappear” into trucks for transport to slaughter.
What are these cows doing on the road anyway?
There are many small “urban” dairy farms in cities and big towns. Dairy owners send their animals out on the road to forage for food as there is no green grass and little or no space to keep the animals at home. Still the owner milks his cows. These cows share the roads with abandoned calves, young and old bulls, old and dry cows. They scavenge between the garbage bins, the vegetable markets and hotels and finally end up on the municipality garbage landfills outside the town.
In places where there are cattle markets, there are more “owners”. These owners (brokers) buy the animals from farmers or cattle markets for very little money. The new “owner” simply leaves them on the road to fend for themselves. They mark the animals as their property. Whenever it suits them and the animal “looks fat”, they sell them off for a lot of money to an unsuspecting real farmer or for slaughter. When the farmer feeds the cow natural food and grass, the animal, having eaten garbage all its life, dies from indigestion and the farmer and the cow are both victims of a cruel and immoral practice.
The Holy Cow Reduced to a Dying Scavenger
There have been anti-plastic campaigns in India. At present there is a ban on plastic bags up to 40 microns in many states. But no one has focused on the hazardous effects of plastic on the animals and their right to live a life free of plastics. It is the basic right of the cow to live and graze on natural food and not have to eat garbage tied up in plastic bags. This is an acute form of cruelty. The noble cow has become a scavenger.
Rumenotomy, the surgical removal of plastic up to 70 kg from the cow.
Karuna Society for Animals & Nature is based at Puttaparthi, in Andhra Pradesh (South India), 70 Kms away from Anantapur. In December 2010, Karuna Society received 36 stray cattle from Anantapur town for permanent custody. Soon after their arrival one of the cows died. The post mortem conducted by our veterinary surgeon revealed that the animal’s rumen was full of plastic. After examination of all the animals, he advised us to start surgeries to remove plastics from their rumens to save their lives.
From the moment we received the “plastic cow” from Anantapur town, we realized that there are hundreds of cattle on the roads feeding on garbage, including plastic. They are sentenced to a slow and cruel death if they do not receive help in time. This is a cruelty most people are not aware of when they see the animals “peacefully” walking on the street. Think about big cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore where tens of thousands of animals are walking around with their bellies full of plastic.
It has been a life changing experience for all of us who witnessed the surgery and the removal of plastics and other waste items from the rumen. We are horrified by the suffering of animals caused by the human garbage system and the problem of letting cows and bulls loose on the road.
The Unobserved Disaster – The Plastic Effect on Wildlife
Along India’s rivers, there are thousands of temples, villages and towns, where untreated sewage and garbage flows in the water. Hundreds of kilometers away, garbage and plastic are deposited at places where wildlife feeds and drinks. Many animals die a painful and unobserved death. An elephant was found dead with 750 kg plastic inside its stomach. Turtles, fish, birds, wild pigs—no animal can escape!!
Pradeep Nath from VSPCA (Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals), Vishakapatnam has for many years been involved in rescuing endangered turtles and other wildlife and his observation shows that many animals suffer from plastic ingestion or get entangled in plastic bags and suffocate to death.
The Plastic Cow Project
Karuna Society, having realized that all cows on Indian roads are full of plastic, wrote a “Plastic Cow” report to all our contacts including the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization (FIAPO) network, to find ways to stop this cruelty. Philip Wollen of the Kindness Trust, Australia, responded immediately and he told us to continue the rumenotomies with the assurance that the Kindness Trust would fund 100 surgeries as a pilot project at the cattle hospital at Karuna Society.
The “Plastic Cow Project.” started with four people, seriously concerned about the ban on plastics and violation of animal rights. It is a work in progress, with multiple strategies being devised to end this problem. The ‘plastic cow’ represents an icon for all animals exposed to the human garbage system.
Surgeries on Plastic Cows
Public Interest Litigation
Plastic cow campaign including documentary and website