Kamadhenu and her daughter Nandini are the magic cows in our lives. Many of you will not have read about them and so you have not been able to understand their importance in the turn of events. Here are their stories for your children: 

Kamadhenu, also known as Surabhi, is a divine cow-goddess described in Hindu mythology as the mother of all cows. She is a miraculous "cow of plenty" who provides people whatever they desire. She is shown as white with various deities within her body. She is supposed to be venerated not through temples but through venerating her children as her earthly embodiment. How was she born?

Once the gods and demons decided to churn the ocean of milk to extract heavenly nectar, amrit, which would free them from death. In the course of the churning, first poison came out which threatened to destroy everything. Lord Shiva drank the poison. After that came Surabhi the wish-fulfilling cow. Vasishta was the chief of the seven first sages (Saptarishi) born of Brahma the Creator. Kamadhenu, the divine cow and her daughter Nandini could grant any wish. They lived with Sage Vasishta and supplied him with all the essentials needed for his rituals to the gods. The Vasus were eight attendants of Indra. When they visited Vashishta's ashram with their wives, one of the wives demanded Kamadhenu. The Vasus then prepared to steal the cow from Vashishta. They were caught and cursed by Vashishta that since they had the traits of men they should be born in the world of men. 

Vashishta later softened his curse on the intervention of Kamadhenu herself and pronounced that they would be liberated from their human birth as soon as they were born. The Vasus met Ganga and said Mother Ganga, we are doomed to be born as human beings. Please take human form and become our mother and liberate us. Ganga took human form and met King Shantanu who fell in love with the goddess of the river immediately. 

Ganga married him on condition that he ask her no questions or interfere with her actions. She said she would leave as soon as he did. She had seven children and drowned each one as soon as he was born. All seven were the Vasus. When she was about to drown the eighth, Shantanu could not resist trying to save the baby. 

Ganga went back to her celestial home after explaining to the king that she had in fact liberated the Vasus and now, because of his interference, the eighth Vasu, Prabhasa, was destined to live on earth. The baby was Bhishma and he became the main player of the epic war known as the Mahabharata. 

So, the desire for the cow Kamadhenu resulted in a stream of events that Vishnu himself had to take part in as Krishna. When King Kaushika visited Vashishta's ashram with his army, the sage fed the entire army with seemingly unlimited food. Kaushika asked the sage how he could have fed an entire army since his hermitage was so bare. Vashishta replied, "O king, this feast that you have partaken with your kinsmen, has been provided by my calf Nandini, who was gifted to me by Indra. You must know that she is the daughter of Indra's cow Kamadhenu. She provides me with everything I need. 

"Kaushika immediately wanted the cow. After all, he thought, feeding an army everyday was very difficult and Nandini would solve that problem. He asked Vashishta if he could buy or take the cow. Vashishta was polite, but steadfast in his refusal. He would not be tempted by the offer of wealth made by Kaushika, for after all who can set a price on a cow, which yields all the riches in the world. Kaushika attacked the ashram with his army. Nandini created warriors for Vashishta’s defence and Kaushika was defeated. 

Kaushika then decided to acquire the powers of the gods through penance. After severe penances he obtained power and weapons from the God Shiva. Once again he attacked Vashishta’s ashram. Again he was repelled by Nandini’s magic. Kaushika then decided to become a rishi himself, and he renounced all his possessions and in time became Vishvamitra, one of the most venerated sages of Hinduism. He was also the father of Shakuntala who was the mother of Bharat after whom India is named. And all this goes back to Nandini King Dileepa and his wife Sudakshina of the Raghuvansha dynasty who had no children. 

They visited the sage Vashishta in his ashram, and asked what they should do to have a child. Vashishta replied that they should serve the cow Nandini, daughter of Kamadhenu, and if Nandini was happy with their devotion, she would grant them with a child. Dileepa attended to Nandini for twenty-one days. 

On the twenty-first day, a lion attacked Nandini. Dileepa immediately drew his bow to shoot the lion but found his arm paralysed. The lion growled “You have no chance of saving a cow from a lion, mortal, so get out of my way”. Dileepa replied by asking if the lion would let Nandini go if he offered himself in her place. The lion agreed and Dileepa sat in front of the lion with his head bowed awaiting death. But the lion disappeared. Nandini explained that the lion was just an illusion to test Dileepa. Nandini granted him a son. Dileepa’s son Bhagiratha was the king who brought the Ganges to earth with his meditation and prayers – and all because of the cow Nandini. 

The Puranas state that it is forbidden to kill cows under any circumstances. Those who fail to give cows reverence and protection and choose to sell a cow for slaughter or kill her himself or permit the slaughter of cows will all rot in the darkest regions of hell for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of each cow slain. 

There is no atonement for the killing of a cow. The cow is a goddess with her own personal heaven like all the other major gods. It is called Goloka. Think of that when you see the next truck at night carrying cows to slaughter. Have you done anything to stop the trade?

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I was born a Sikh but have always felt a Jain. It takes a million rebirths, to be lucky enough to be born a Jain. That is why I feel upset when I see a Jain eating meat, running a leather, mining, bone china or gelatin industry, buying silk, drinking milk or buying Tirathankar statues on auction so that he/she can put their name in a Jain temple

More than any other religion, Jainism believes implicitly in the law of karma. As you do, so shall you be done by. The lack of knowledge about one’s actions – a child stamping on an ant, for instance- does not absolve you. Positive, beneficial actions reap their own benefits. Negative hurt and pain causing ones have their own reactions. One does not cancel out the other, each has an impact on what will happen to you. The worst karmic defilement of the soul takes place when one causes hurt to any other creature. Mahavir's words—you are that which you intend to hit, injure, insult, torment, persecute, torture, enslave or kill."

Jain Dharma sees the whole universe as a great cosmic mechanism and humans as part of that mechanism must conduct ourselves in harmony and rhythm with it. Anything said or done in this world is echoed back with the same intensity. One could even say that the global ecological crisis that is threatening the entire human race is the consequence of echoing back our own negative thoughts, words and actions.

Each being is a vital thread in another's life tapestry and our lives are woven together for a reason -- to survive and be happy. Everything works according to its nature. But humans live out of sync with the mechanism when we go against our qualities of love, kindness and friendship for all living beings. When we forget how so many invisible lives have made our single day livable and comfortable then we imperil our own lives

If we make the right choices we will get the right consequences. Lord Mahavir says:

"One who neglects or disregards the existence Of earth, water, fire, air, vegetation and all other lives Disregards his own existence Which is entwined with them."

The best way to see that negative actions are kept to a minimum is to think through your actions and see if they are necessary to your existence. If you understand that each shoe, wallet , steak or diamond will cost you several more rebirths in very difficult conditions, would you do it ? 

Ahimsa means non-injury. Jains consider nonviolence to be the most essential duty for everyone (ahins? paramo dharma?,). It is an indispensable condition for liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, the ultimate goal of Jainism. According to Jainism every act by which a person directly or indirectly supports killing or injury is violence (himsa), which creates harmful karma. The aim of ahimsa is to prevent the accumulation of such karma. Jains share this goal with Hindus and Buddhists, but their approach is particularly comprehensive. Their scrupulous and thorough way of applying nonviolence to everyday activities and food shapes their lives and is the most significant hallmark of Jain identity.

The perfect Jain goes out of his way so as not to hurt even small insects and other tiny animals, because harm caused by carelessness is as reprehensible as harm caused by deliberate action.

Jain vegetarianism is the best way to lessen evil. It is not just a matter of not eating meat. It is eating less, eating your last meal before sunset , eating while sharing, eating that which is in season and local. This discipline and thoughtfulness about food should extend to all areas of one’s life. To me it means the training of the body and mind to appreciate everything – want nothing.

An ideal Jain would live on fruit and those vegetables that are taken from a plant without killing it – peas, tomatoes for instance or vegetables that come only for a short season. Rice and wheat are both fruit that come at the end of the plant’s cycle. In the instructions for preventing unnecessary violence against plants, are injunctions against root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, roots and tubers, because tiny life forms are injured when the plant is pulled up and because the bulb is seen as a living being, as it is able to sprout . Honey is forbidden, as its collection is violence against bees. Cooking or eating at night is discouraged because insects are attracted to the lamps or fire at night. 

Jains believe that animals, plants, human beings contain living souls. Each soul is of equal value and should be treated with respect and compassion.

To injure any living being in one's thought, speech, or action constitutes violence, or Hinsa. The monk is enjoined not to commit violence against any living being, including those with one sense (Ekendiryas) and that are immobile (Sthavar), such as plants or those organisms that have earth, water, fire, or air as bodies. Lay Jains are forbidden from Himsa against all mobile beings (Trasa), whether they have two (Dwindriya), three (Trindriya), four (Chaturindriya), or five (Panchendriya) senses ( all mammals, birds, and fish). That is why Jains who drink milk are unacceptable as Jains. The production of mlk demands major violence on cows. None of them “ give” milk to you. You put her in a stall to stand for 24 hours, impregnate her forcibly , and then take the milk away from her baby. Those Jains who buy milk from the market are even worse – because they take part in a system that involves killing of the baby for leather, injecting the cow with painful hormones and then killing her after her milk dries up. Any attempt to rationalize the drinking of milk is impossible. The government itself says that the largest export of anything in the country is cow leather – 27,000 crores worth. There is an inextricable relationship between the meat industry and dairy with as much suffering and death in a glass of milk as in a pound of steak. And the same goes for eggs.Even the person who keeps only one cow must keep that cow pregnant in order to get milk and this means a steady stream of calves. Whenever a calf is separated from its mother, there is tremendous suffering. Similarly, the shearing of sheep for their wool involves unspeakable violence. The animals are frightened and their bodies often cut and injured. Then they are slaughtered. Silk is produced by boiling silk worms alive. Some Jains argue that the use of animal products is traditional. But tradition cannot define human conduct. Jainism’s ethical principles are a matter of rational thought and careful consideration and cannot be lulled into complacency by tradition.There are Jains who say that we cannot live a perfect life so compromises must be made. Jainism recognizes that we cannot avoid all violence, which is why laypersons are not required to eschew violence to immobile, one-sense organisms. But if inability to avoid all Himsa means that dairy or wool can be used, which involves injury and death on five-sensed beings, then it must mean that flesh can be eaten as well.Some Jains claim that it is not certain that it is wrong to consume dairy or use wool. If we accept this reasoning, then we can be used to say that there are no absolute moral truths - including the basic truth of Ahimsa and the prohibition against eating flesh. Some argue that it is inconvenient to be vegan. Then why be Jain? Considerations of convenience negate the religion itself. Both Svetambara and Digambara are clear and in agreement that suffering and death imposed on mobile beings is unacceptable. Jainism takes Ahimsa very seriously. Abstinence from killing other animals must be observed by thought, word and deed - Mana, Vachana and Kaya. The discipline imposed is purity of thought, word and deed. It is not enough if one abstains from inflicting pain on other beings; If you approve of such conduct in others, that approval makes you responsible for the cruelty of killing practiced by others. Do not kill nor kill through an agent nor approve the evil deed. Since Jains are basically business people, look at the industry you run and evaluate the suffering it causes. Is it worth another thousand lives?

 
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As more and more people come into the animal movement, the number of people picking up puppies from the road has , thankfully increased. It is a sad truth that 90% of the puppies die within a week of their birth and 30% of mothers die before the pups are even a week old - of being run over, of being beaten because they try and defend their puppies from young children hurting them , of being poisoned because people don't want puppies on their street or neighbourhood, of being picked up at night and thrown away, of sheer exhaustion from the delivery and consequent starvation. Once the mothers are gone, the puppies don't stand a chance. They will starve to death or die of cold, of be run over or be stoned by people or develop parvo virus or distemper. 

It is important for you to pick them up and look after them. But you must know how to feed them as well. Here are instructions on what to do with puppies - whether the children of a pet or those that you have brought in from the street.

Q. My dog just had 5 puppies. They are now three weeks old. I can see my dog is getting tired of breast feeding. When the puppies feed on her they can be very aggressive to get to her nipples and they scratch and hurt her. I also want to feed my dog properly because she's breast feeding. Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with the puppies being hand fed? What foods I should give my dog to get the proper nutrition?

Ans. Start to wean the puppies by giving them formula milk twice a day. Take the mother out when you feed and then allow her to go back in. Give her a lot of broth – the more she drinks the more milk she will make.

This is the formula: 10 oz. of canned evaporated milk or goat's milk (not pasteurized cow's milk . Do NOT use sweetened condensed milk. 3 oz. sterilized water (boiled water that is then cooled). This is not needed if using whole goat's milk.1 raw egg yolk.1 cup of whole yogurt. 1 c white sugar and 1/4 c hot water (cook it to dissolve in the water. Place ingredients in a blender and blend or use a wire whisk. Be careful to not over blend and create a milkshake full of bubbles and then tube bubbles into the puppy. Warm formula to body temperature (dogs are around 101 degrees). This is a thick mixture - enlarge the hole in the nipple for easy access for the pup. To enlarge the hole, heat a needle and then pierce the tip of the nipple a few times. The hole is the right size if, when you turn the bottle upside down, milk replacer drips from the nipple with only a gentle squeeze of the bottle. 

If, when you upend the bottle, you must squeeze it firmly to get milk to drip from the nipple, the hole needs to be enlarged. Otherwise, the puppy will become discouraged or exhausted when nursing and may even refuse to nurse. Discard any un-used formula. 
Q. I have brought in puppies from the street whose mother was run over when they were just one day old. What should I do ?

Ans. Newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature very well. They quickly become chilled, or hypothermic, if their mother, their siblings, or their environment does not keep them warm. It will be necessary to provide a heat source for your puppy for the first few weeks of life. Suitable heat sources include hot water bottles, incubators, and heat lamps. Whichever heat source you use, make sure the puppy doesn't become overheated or burned. In addition, avoid drafts by placing the puppy's box away from windows, doorways, and air-conditioning vents. 

During the first 4 days of life, aim to keep the air temperature in the box at puppy-level between 85°F and 90°F. Gradually decrease the temperature to about 80°F degrees by days 7-10. If you are raising a litter of puppies, the temperature can be a little lower, as the puppies will huddle together and keep one another warm.

The normal rectal temperature for a newborn puppy is 95-99°F. If its rectal temperature is below 94°F degrees you are dealing with a potentially life-threatening case of hypothermia. The puppy needs to be warmed immediately. Take care not to overheat the puppy or warm it too quickly; this can be fatal in a weak puppy.

Q. The newborn puppies look very dehydrated to me?

Ans. Newborn puppies quickly become dehydrated very quickly if they are not nursing. They can also become dehydrated if their environment is too hot and dry. Two indicators of dehydration are loss of elasticity in the skin (the skin stays tented when gently pinched up) and decreased saliva production (the gums and tongue feel tacky or dry).

Hypoglycemia quickly develops in a newborn that is not nursing frequently. As hypoglycemia worsens, the puppy becomes progressively more depressed and weak. Without treatment it may develop muscle twitches or seizures and then it will become unresponsive and comatose. If it is showing any of these signs place a few drops of corn syrup on its tongue. This simple procedure is often sufficient to revive a hypoglycemic puppy. Also watch for signs of hypoglycemia over the next several days, as you adjust your puppy's feeding schedule.

Q. Should I know anything about their defecation ?

Ans. Mothers stimulate their puppies to defecate (pass stool) by licking or nuzzling around the puppy's anus. To prevent your orphaned puppy from becoming constipated, you'll need to mimic this action using a soft cloth or cotton ball moistened with warm water. Gently stimulate the puppy's anal area after feeding for the first 2 weeks of its life. Orphan puppies less than one week old must be stimulated to urinate and eliminate. This is accomplished by gentle massage of the abdomen and genital area with a piece of cotton wool or tissue, dampened with warm water.

Q. What should I feed them ?

Ans. What I have written above but gently and slowly. 

Q. What should I watch out for when bottle feeding puppies ?

Ans. Here are some general rules for bottle feeding puppies:

Always boil your water before using - allow time to cool.

Burp your pups after feeding.

A pup may have little bubbles by his mouth but there should not be milk running out of his mouth.

When the bottle is held upside down the milk should drip out - NOT FLOW OUT in a stream - pups that get milk in their lungs will get pneumonia and more than likely die.

Calorie intake needs to be adjusted according to growth of puppies. A general rule of thumb (unless someone has a better idea) is 1 CC per OZ. of body weight every 3 hours. 

You must have an accurate scale to weigh pups if you are going to get the best success. Use a kitchen food scale. It is easy to see any weight gain or loss. Keep a record that you can easily refer to.


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Among the most trying and time consuming jobs that we face at People For Animals (PFA), India’s largest animal welfare organization, is facing down bullies who attack , abuse and even assault people who feed and care for hungry, homeless animals in their area. The victims are typically women – usually single or vulnerable—and the aggressors range from loutish chowkidars to retired defence officers and bureaucrats who grandly preside over meaningless RWAs and Building Societies in a pathetic effort to recreate their ‘koi hai’ heydays.  

First understand: It is perfectly legal to feed and care for needy animals. There is no law in India that prohibits anyone from performing such charity. In fact, not only is it legal to feed dogs, the Court has held that is helpful as it facilitates the municipal Animal Birth Control (ABC) programme of sterilization and vaccination that is being conducted by municipalities around India in conjunction with local animal welfare organizations.

For those of you who want to hurt dogs, understand why we have street dogs and what they do for us. Animals exist in any area because of the availability of food – this does not mean the food given by a few lovely ladies as mentioned above-- but uncollected garbage and rats. When you remove the existing dog population, this food supply still remains, so other animals move in. These could be other dogs or worse, rats. In one year, one pair of rats can multiply to 33,000. The municipality is helpless against rats, it is our street dogs and cats that keep them in check. Remove dogs without first removing garbage, and your rats will multiply. Both New York (rats love NY) and Surat (which killed its dogs and got the plague) are prime examples. So street dogs act like unpaid garbage cleaners, consuming organic waste that would otherwise putrefy and smell, as well as control the rodent population. As long as we don’t have an efficient garbage disposal system, we shall have street dogs, and thank God for that!

For several decades, India is following an outdated colonial law and in an effort to eliminate street dogs, continued to kill them in the most barbaric manner. Millions were poisoned, beaten to death, burnt, buried alive, repeatedly electrocuted and even hanged. The dog population continued to increase as nature compensated by increasing litter sizes. In 1991, I produced statistics showing that killing had not reduced either dog numbers, bites or rabies. So much cruelty for nothing. An appalled Court banned all municipal dog killing forthwith. 

Today, not only is it illegal to kill dogs, it is illegal to remove them from any area. The Stray Animals (Dogs) Rules 2001 prohibits any individual, organization or building association from removing or relocating dogs. Complaints, if any, may be directed to the local municipality or an animal welfare organization. 

They will take the dog, sterilize and vaccinate him/her and replace in the same area. A sterilized dog may not be moved by even the Municipality.  

Sterilizing dogs not only reduces dog numbers, it also reduces dog bites. Male dogs are apt to get into fights over females during the mating season and aggression increases. Similarly post delivery, protective mother dogs will bite anyone she sees as a threat to her puppies. This is actually when the maximum bites occurs. Sterilization removes both causes. The logic of leaving dogs where they belong is that this ensures that dogs of one area prevent the incursion into that area of other animals. Being sterilized, the original dog population does not increase and since the dogs are familiar with the residents, there is no chance of bites. The dogs, thus live out their natural lives healthily and harmlessly.  

This WHO recommended programme has been successful. Many cities are now rabies-free zones. In both Delhi and Mumbai, dog numbers are down and there are far fewer bite cases. Some states have taken this very seriously : Sikkim is the best and even put it into a budget head. Some , like Orissa and Madhya Pradesh have not started any programme at all but have stopped the killing. Kerala continues to kill – and has the highest number of rabies cases.

For the programme to be strengthened and speeded up, we need more people feeding and caring for dogs. This has several advantages. First, there are people who recognize the dogs of the area , can provide a reliable head count and ensure that the entire local population is covered. Two, the dogs are people- friendly and therefore easy to find and take for sterilization. Hostile and frightened dogs run, hide and evade capture. Three, regularly fed dogs are healthy and therefore recover better and faster from the sterilization operation increasing the turnover rate. 

Therefore it makes no sense to pick on people who are doing us the favour of tending our homeless animals on their own time and at their own cost. 

A lot of people demand that those who feed dogs must then take responsibility for housing them. I may give money to a beggar – do I have to provide him accommodation as well? Many of the people who share food with animals are neither well off themselves nor live in bungalows. Rather than appreciate what they are already doing, we blame them for not doing more! Those who object the most to this charity, are the ones who do nothing to help anyone themselves. 

A second criticism of dog feeders is that they must be responsible in case of any biting incident. Most feeders do take this responsibility but it is illogical. If I give a beggar food, shall I be held responsible if he later robs a house? Dogs are naturally friendly animals and do not bite unless severely provoked. It is certainly not the feeder’s fault if neighbours throw stones or brandish sticks at the dog which makes him to react in self-defence.

It is equally unreasonable to insist that dog feeders must pick up the faeces from public spaces like parks and open ground of the dogs they feed. You can expect that from the owners of pet dogs. Nor do we set such standards of cleanliness and hygiene for ourselves. Our parks are littered with plastic in spite of bins being provided. Nobody is penalized for littering. Dog faeces is organic and will mix into the soil and turn into manure. Plastic and glass will not. 

Another weird reaction is outrage that you can be feeding an animal rather than another human being. It is funny how quickly the outrage and the crowd melts away when you turn around and ask this great humanitarian objector why he/she doesn’t go give something to another human themselves!  

All of these are not because we really object to dogs or dirt or noise or anything. At the end of the day, it is simply power play. People at the bottom of the pile-henpecked husbands, menial employees, people who command no power or respect , the great unloved-- need to vent their frustration somewhere. These become child, wife and animal beaters. Since those who are sensitive to animal suffering are perceived to be ‘softies’ they make easy targets. 

And this is why People For Animals is inundated with such cases. In each instance we have tackled the bully who has either given an apology and desisted from ever troubling the animals or their caretaker again , or else has faced police action . Here are the laws that every animal feeder should be armed with.

Under Section 428/429 IPC, it is a cognizable offence to hit /hurt , maim, injure or kill any animal. Offenders may be immediately arrested. It is also a criminal offence under Section 506 IPC to threaten, abuse or harass anyone for feeding an animal. The court has termed feeding homeless animals a social service and directed the police to protect those who do it. Anyone obstructing this work may be prosecuted. 

The most important thing to understand is that compassion and courage are two sides of the same coin. Those who care about animals and take the time and trouble to help them, deserve our strongest support, encouragement and admiration. 

People who help people are routinely applauded and awarded. Helping animals is a long and lonely struggle. This is what makes it a far greater service than any other and one that needs to be recognized and rewarded. The next time you see someone feeding an animal, be sure to give them a smile.  

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The main native breed of cow called Sahiwal was named after my maternal grandfather Sir Datar Singh. There were hundreds of local breeds of cow of every shape and size, even one slightly bigger than goats in Kerala. Today there are very few native breeds that have survived the murderous, illegal leather industry. And in another few years, the remaining Indian breeds will have succumbed to the illiterate push to hybridize them.

It is not just our native seeds of rice and wheat and cooton that are under attack, In an ambitious effort to boost milk production and produce high yielding cows, India is cross breeding our native cows with high potential exotic bulls primarily Holstein Friesian (HF) and Jersey. This mixing of Indian cows (Bos Indicus) with European cattle (Bos Taurus) raises serious concerns about the ability of these cross bred cows to cope with our agro-climatic conditions and perform in our system of farming. 

The first is to do with hardiness. The milk production potential of Indian breeds may be limited, but their suitability for tropical climatic conditions is well known. Having evolved in this hemisphere, Indian cow breeds are uniquely adapted to the heat. Their hide, coat and skin are configured to withstand muggy and scorching environments with temperatures of over 40 degrees celcius and relative humidity of 55% or more. Their smooth coat with primary hair follicles enhances conductive and convective heat loss and reduces absorption of solar radiation. With less carbon dioxide in the blood in their veins, they can maintain lower respiration rates in the heat. With a lower metabolic rate and larger, better developed sweat and sebaceous glands than their European counterparts, Indian cows enjoy an increased capacity for heat loss and are better able to regulate body temperature in response to heat stress. This ability to maintain thermal equilibrium is necessary for normal function and performance. Exposure to elevated temperature has less deleterious effects on Indian than European cows. These high milk yielding cows are very prone to suffer heat stress in our warm climate. 

Not only are our cattle better able to cope with our climate, but also with our living conditions. 

Indian cattle are genetically adapted to local nutrition, which is to poorer quality, sparser vegetation and soils of low pH. They have lower inherent voluntary feed intake and lower relative maintenance requirements. Cross bred cows not only need very good nourishment but also need a cooler and more comfortable environment. While such special conditions can be provided only in well organized dairy farms in India, by and large our dairy industry is based on milk collection from small rural cattle owners

Due to a genetic ability to utilize forage more efficiently, Indian cattle have higher red blood cell counts, total cell volume and haemoglobin. They enjoy greater immunity against infection and disease. They are naturally resistant to ectoparasites like ticks and worms and the diseases transmitted by them. Indian Cattle are also more tolerant to mosquito attacks than exotic breeds. Best of all, they enjoy ease of calving. So all in all, Indian cattle survive and reproduce in our less than ideal conditions. 

Cross-breeding leads to the loss of the unique genetic advantages that Indian cattle enjoy. Not possessing the tolerance to heat and other attributes necessary to survive and thrive in Indian conditions, any hybrid strain is naturally less able to cope and function.

For example , while native cattle are resistant to mastitis, HF cross bred cattle have been found to be very prone to this condition. Similarly with tuberculosis. A news report stated that recently 60 HF cows in a small sample had tested positive for TB. This is a serious concern as milk and dairy from infected cattle spreads the disease to humans. It is evident that TB is not common among Indian cows as the disease would otherwise have been rampant in Indian rural areas where it is traditional to have household cattle. With government breeding programmes now propagating only cross bred HF cattle, it is impossible for small rural farmers to regularly test their cows for TB. It is also not feasible to have screening tests to detect TB infected milk at milk collection centres. This makes the entire Indian dairy milk supply a potential source of transfer of TB to humans. 

But even this is not the worst health worry. Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) is a zoonotic disease that spreads to humans through ticks. It was first identified in the Crimea in 1944 and christened as Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever. In 1969 it was recognized that the pathogen causing Crimean haemorrhagic fever was the same as that responsible for an illness identified in 1956 in the Congo , and linkage of the two place names resulted in the current name for the disease and the virus. 

Usually the virus spreads to humans either by tick-bites, or through contact with infected animal tissues during and immediately post-slaughter.. Various feral and domestic animals such as cattle, goats, sheep and hares act as hosts in spreading the virus. CCHF can be transmitted from one infected body to another by contact with infectious blood or body fluids. Improper sterilization of medical equipment, repeat use of needles and corrupted medical supplies would lead to the spread of this is virus as has been documented and there has already been a documented spread of this virus.

The symptoms include headache, high fever, back pain, joint pain, stomach pain and vomiting. They may also include jaundice, and in severe cases, changes in mood and sensory perception. Red eyes, a flushed face, a red throat, and petechiae (red spots) on the palate are common. As the illness develops, large areas of severe bruising, severe nosebleeds, and uncontrolled bleeding at injection sites can be seen, beginning on or about the fourth day of illness and lasting for about two weeks.

CCHF outbreaks constitute a threat to public health because of their epidemic potential, high case fatality ratio (10-40) and the difficulties in treatment and prevention. CCHF is endemic in all of Africa, Eastern Europe, particularly in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and in Asia south of the 50° parallel north, the geographic limit of the genus Hyalomma, the principal tick vector. It is scattered throughout the Mediterranean, in northwestern China , central Asia, southern Europe , and the Indian subcontinent.

In India , CCHF cases are reported to be emanating mainly from Gujarat , headquarters of India ’s white revolution and its cross breeding programme. While Indian breeds have sweat and sebaceous glands spread all over their body with the mix of sweat and skin oil that they exude, acting as a natural tick repellent, foreign breeds and hybrid cattle enjoy no such defence. They are, therefore, that much more prone to contracting or spreading CCHF. In fact WHO figures indicate that indeed CCHF is far more prevalent in areas that do not have Bos Indicus the original breed of Indian cows.

World dairy scientists have also discovered that BCM7 ( Beta Caso Morphine 7) a highly toxic opioid, is found in the milk of HF cows. This milk is designated as type A1 and has been found to be strongly linked with a large number of human diseases starting from autism and pediatric diabetes to cardiac artery diseases, diabetes, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, Alzheimers, and Parkinson’s. On the other hand, the milk of Indian cow breeds has been reported to be immune to these diseases.. Milk that is free from BCM7 is designated as type A2 milk. All around the world, dairy farmers have on their own initiative, started breeding cattle to produce A2 milk. American veterinarians are already reported to be working on strategy to genetically modify HF cows to produce BCM7 free milk.

This besides, BLAD is an autosomal recessive genetic disease that afficts Holstein-Friesian (HF) cattle worldwide. This is alarming as the mutant gene has already entered the HF crossbred cattle population and therefore, the population of HF and its crossbreds needs regular screening to avoid the risk of spreading BLAD in the breeding cattle population of India .

The express purpose of cross breeding is to increase milk yield. While European cattle might boast higher milk yield , it is because of their natural environment where they are assured rich pastures and a cool climate. Actually , Indian cattle have a more efficient feed to milk ratio. Instead of cross breeding as a way of increasing milk which has a risk of spreading disease, what we should be looking at is ways to improve milk yield of our own cows through better feed and better health and veterinary practices like pre and post partum care.

By cross-breeding our cattle we risk losing native species that are uniquely adapted to India and producing a hybrid that poses a public health hazard. Check your milk : where does it come from ?
 
Maneka Gandhi
 
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