A study published in the ‘Lancet’ in 2022 suggested that rising temperatures might lead to a 25% drop in milk production in India’s dry and semi-dry areas by the end of the century in 2085. This reduction is the second highest in India, following Pakistan, where it’s estimated to be 28.7%. In more humid regions, the expected decline in milk production is around 10%.
Significance of Dairy Sector
- In India, about 150 million people depend on farming animals for dairy products, making it a crucial source of income for many families.
- These animal-based products, like milk and ghee, play a vital role in providing nutrition and ensuring food security for a significant portion of the population.
- The dairy sector contributes 2 percent to the country’s overall economic output, showing its importance to the national economy.
- Beyond economic factors, cows hold special significance in Hindu tradition, with their importance rooted in ancient wisdom.
- Traditional beliefs also consider turmeric milk, desi ghee, and cow urine as remedies for various health issues, adding to the cultural importance of dairy farming.
- Milk, ghee, paneer, and milk-based sweets are integral to the Indian diet, forming a cherished part of the country’s culinary heritage.
Need of plant-based alternative to Dairy Sector
Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture: Farming in India is responsible for around 16% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. A significant chunk of this comes from methane produced by cows during digestion and from their waste, making up a whopping 75% of total emissions.
Water Stress due to Cattle Farming: India is grappling with water scarcity, and the booming human and cattle populations are only making it worse. A single crossbred cow can gulp down about 1,100 liters of water per day. Big players like Nestle SA and Danone SA are accused of promoting water-intensive dairy farming in places like Punjab.
Zoonotic Disease Threat: The way we exploit animals is a major contributor to diseases that can jump from animals to humans. Going plant-based, or adopting a vegan lifestyle, has shown promise in reducing the risk of such diseases.
Poor Conditions in Cattle Farming: The treatment of animals in the dairy industry is often grim. Practices like artificial insemination, the use of growth hormones to boost milk production, injecting oxytocin into milch cattle, slaughtering male calves, abandoning sterile cattle, and selling livestock to slaughterhouses and tanneries are sadly common.
With the livelihoods of 150 million people on the line, it’s crucial for policymakers to find new job opportunities for those who might lose their jobs. One potential solution could be investing in large-scale social forestry, which not only helps people but also has positive effects on the planet. However, there are concerns and questions about lab-produced plant-based milk that’s meant for people to drink.
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