THE NEW LIVESTOCK POLICY
A POLICY OF ECOCIDE OF INDIGENOUS CATTLE BREEDS
A POLICY OF GENOCIDE FOR INDIA'S SMALL FARMERS
by Dr.Vandana Shiva
The Livestock Policy Perspective 1995-2020 developed by the Government of
India and the Swiss Development Cooperation is a policy for the destruction
of India's farm animal biodiversity and a threat to the survival of small
farmers who depend on a diversity based decentralised livestock economy.
India's livestock legacy has four unique dimensions :-
- 1. Cows and bulls are treated as sacred and hence are protected.
- 2 The conservation of farm animals is essential for the sustainability
of agriculture and the survival of small farmers.
- 3. The conservation and utilisation of farm animals is based on diversity
- both diversity of breeds as well as diversity offunction of farm animals
- 4. The sustenance of cattle comes from diverse sources of fodder and
feed - agricultural by products such as straw and oil cake, fodder trees
planted on farms and common property resources such a village pastures and
Thus, the indigenous approach to livestock is based on diversity, decentralisation,
sustainability and equity. Our cattle are not just milk machines or meat
machines. They are sentient beings who serve human communities through their
multidimensional role in agriculture.
On the other hand, extemally driven projects, programmes and policies emerging
ftom industrial societies treat cattle as one-dimensional machines which
are maintained with capital intensive and environmentally intensive inputs
and which provide a single output - either milk or meat. Polices based on
this approach are characterised by monocultures, concentration and centralisation,
non-sustainability and inequality.
The new livestock policy has been framed in this paradigm of machines and
monocultures. It is a serious attack on principles of diversity, decentralisation,
sustainability and equity in the livestock sector.
The Cattle Economy:
The Provider for the Poor.
The policy document recognises that the livestock economy is the economy
of the poorest households in India.
As stated in Section 2.3: About 630 million people reside in rural areas
(74% of total population) of which 40% have incomes which place them below
the poverty line. Some 70 million hou seholds (73% of total rural households)
keep and own livestock of one kind or another and derive on avera:ge 20%
of their income from this source. Small and marginal fanners and landless
tabourers constitute almost two-thirds of these livestock keeping households.
The importance of the livestock sector can therefore not be measured purely
in terms of its contribution to GDP but it plays a very crucial role in
generating income and employment for the weaker sections of the economy.
Rapid growth of the livestock sector can be a dedding factor in the efforts
at improving nutrition and relieving poverty. Women provide nearly 90% of
all labour for livestock management.
However, all the analysis in the policy is totally insensitive to the systems
which allow cattle to serve the needs of the poorest. As a result the recommendations
are a direct assault on this survival base of the poor.
An Assault on the Culture of Conservation.
The livestock policy paper is disrespectful to the Indian culture of reverence
for farm animals. These cultural beliefs are viewed as block to promoting
meat production. At a time when meat consumption is going down in western
countries themselves, India's livestock policy is trying to convert a pre-
dominantly vegetarian society into a beef eating culture. In the U.S.. beef
consumption per capita has declined from 88.9 pounds in 1976 to 63.9 pounds
in 1990. Cultural attitudes have been the most significant reason for maintaining
vegetarian diets for the large majority in India. The livestock policy would
like to undern-dne these conservation policies to promote a meat culture.
As stated in Section 2.10 on Medt Production: The beef production in India
is purely an adjunct to milk and draught power production. The animals slaughtered
are the old and the infirm and the sterile and are in all cases malnourished.
There is no organized marketing and no grading system and beef prices are
at a level which makes feeding uneconomic. There is no instance of feedlots
or even individual animals being riased for meat. Religious sentiments (particularly
in the Northern and Westem parts of India) against cattle slaughter seem
to spill over also on buffaloes and prevent the utilization of a large number
of surplus male calves.
The policy then recommends government interventions to stimulate meat production
even though this will totally undem-dne the basis of sustainable agriculture.
Undermining Sustainability of Agriculture.
The economics of meat exports is totally flawed in a diversity based culture
of animal husbandry and farming. Two thirds and more of the power requirements
of Indian villages are met by the 80 million work animals. Indian cattle
excrete 700 n-dllion tons of recoverable manure. Half of which is used as
fuel, saving 27 millions of kerosene, 35 million tons of coal or 68 million
tons of wood. The remaining half is used as fertiliser.
As Maneka Gandhi has shown in the case of one export slaughter house, the
value of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium provided annually by living cattle
is fifty times more than the animal earnings from meat exports, which at
current rates of slaughter will wipe out Indian farm animals in 10-15 years.
If animals are allowed to live, we will get 19,18,562 tonnes of farmyard
manure with the help of their dung and urine.
The livestock policy has nothing to say on the role of animals in the maintenance
of sustainability in agriculture. In fact, the livestock policy if implemented
would convert cow dung from a source of fertility into a major source of
pollution since intensive factory farming of cattle for beef leads to concentration
of organic waste from livestock in one place. Since such intensive production
is not integrated and cannot be integrated with agriculture as in the case
of small farms with decentralised livestock economies, the animal waste
turns into a pollutant. Nitrogen from cattle waste is converted into Ammonia
and Nitrates which leach into and pollute the surface and ground water.
A feedlot of 10,000 cattle produces. as mudi waste as a city of 110,000
people. This is the reason the Netherlands has been @g to export its toxic
cow dung to India and is unable to reintegrate this animal waste into its
own agricultural systems. Cow dung is a fertilizer only in small scale integrated
farn-dng systems. In large scale, concentrated and specialised factory farn-Ling
systems, this wealth is converted into a hazardous waste. Further, since
intensive factory farming of cattle goes hand in hand with intensive feeding
and feed production which in tum requires heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides,
the cattle waste from factory farms is very heavily contaminated with chemicals.
While in decentralised small scale animal husbandry, cow dung is the most
significant gift of the cow to sustainable agriculture, there is total neglect
of the contribution of cattle to renewal of soil fertility in the livestock
policy. While reference is made to draught power, it is only with the objective
of wiping out this source of sustainable energy production, without recognising
that ff animals were replaced by tractors in India we would have to spend
more than a thousand million US dollars annually on fossil fuels, worsening
our debt crisis and our balance of payment. In total indifference to the
huge economic costs to both farmers and the country generated by substituting
animal energy by fossil fuel run mechanical energy, the livestock policy
blindly proposes such a shift.
As Section 2.4 on Drought Power: The. number of work animals continued to
increase through 1977 but has since fallen by about 10 million to a level
of 70 million in 1987 of which 9% are ;buffaloes. To ensure replacement
every sixth year one needs about 0.67 breedable cows per bullock. The bullocks
have been largely replaced by mechanical means in transport and irrigation
and are now almost exclusively u@ for land preparation. How much of the
gross cropped area (180 m ha) that is cultivated by animal power is uncertain
(an estimate of 60 m ha is given in a recent WB report) but it is clear
that the bullocks may only be utilized for a short period of the year (at
most 100 days). Since bullocks generally are not put out to grazing except
possibly during the slack season, feeding them and the necessary replacement
stock imposes a major strain. Crossbreds are generally not appreciated as
bullocks. Although there are opportunities to introduce improved bullock
genes in F2 and subsequent crosses these are seldom utilized. In larger
herds one may use some cows for crossbreeding while others are used for
bullock (and marginal milk) production. In smaller herds one can however
not separately pursueboth the power and the dairy objective. The policy
of upgrading bullocks and introducing improved implements has met with limited
success (some implements like the seeder has been introduced). Where the
field sizes, topography etc. allow the farmer has the choice between keeping
his own bullocks (and the stock needed for their replacement), disposing
of the bullocks and either hire power for cultivation (animal or tractor)
with the consequent risk that the timeliness of operations will suffer,
or acquiring a tractor and offer its service for transport and cultivation.
We have only lin-dted material that illustrates the relative attractiveness
of these options for different farm sizes with due consideration to the
importance of timeliness of land preparation (see however Sharma and Binswanger).
The trend is obviously away from animal power.
As stated in Section 5.2 on Interventions: with respect of animal power
further adds, ff our aim, as suggested, is to accelerate the trend towards
mechanization as well as to promote upgrading of bullock power and improvement
of implements we will need to consider interventions for this purpose. In
order to accelerate mechanization one may consider providing credit for
tractor (incl.equipment) procurementand to make sure (through training programs
and subsidy) that theweaker sections get a fair chance to exploit this opportunity.
At a time when as a result of the climate change crisis we should be moving
away from fossil fuel use to sustainable sources of energy, the livestock
policy recon-unends the reverse. It also neglects the fact that even in
the affluent state of Punjab, farmers are shifting back from tractors to
bullocks because the tractors have become too expensive to operate due to
rise in fuel prices. The flawed one-dimensional, linear and monoculture
The livestock policy is based on a flawed logic of one dimensionality and
linearity. One dimensional thinking is based on perceiving cattle as linear
and mechanical input-output systems with a single function, single output
usually limited to milk or meat. Linearity is displayed in treating these
inputs and outputs as linear flows. On this one dimensional and linear logic,
it that India's 70 mfllion work animals have to be fed and managed over
a "365 day feeding year" while they give a "100 day working
year". On the basis of this flawed logic it is then stated that these
"inefficient" work animals can become progressively redundant
to the farming sector and cattle population can be reduced to one third
of what it is.
This concept of efficiency applied to cattle is totally misplaced. Firstly,
for most rural families, animals are part of their extended families and
are not mere work machines. if this n-dsplaced logic of efficiency had to
be applied to humans, we too should be totally annihilated and replaced
by robots because humans are "inefficient" as they have to be
looked after in childhood and old age and during ill health, while they
"work" only in adult life and during healthy periods. Treating
humans and animals as if they were mere machines with an externally defined
single function is ethically outrageous and economically flawed.
Secondly, in any case, in India, farm animals are not single output, single
function machines. They have many functions only one of which is to provide
work energy. Even when work animals are not pulling ploughs or bullock carts
they are giving manure, the most significant contribution that cattle make
to agriculture. Thirdly, a comparative energy audit of inputs and useful
outputs from U.S. cattle and Indian cattle shows that Indian cattle are
far more efficient than their counterparts in industrial economies in using
energy. They use 29 per cent of organic matter provided to them, and 22
per cent of the energy and 3 per cent of the protein in contrast to 9, 7
and 5 per cent respectively in the intensive cattle industry in the U.S.
Indian cattle provide food in the exc@ss of the edible food consumed, in
contrast to the U.S. where 6 times as much* edible food is fed to the cattle
as is obtained from them.
It is this wasteful and inefficient system of livestock management that
the new livestock policy introduced in India in the name of improving "efficiency"
Undermining Farm Animal Biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Convention obliges all member states to protect biodiversity.
This includes farm animal biodiversity- India's indigenous livestock policy
has been based on a wide diversity of cattle breeds. They are high milk
yielders like the Gir, Sindhi, Sahiwal and Deoni. They are dual purpose
breeds such as the Haryana, Ongole, Gaolao, Krishna Valley, 'Ibarparkar,
Kankrej. Finally there are specialised draught animals such as Nagori, Bachour,
Kenkatha, Malvi, Kherigarh, Hallikar, Amritmohal, Kangayam, Khillari etc.
The livestock policy document totally fails to address the issue of conservation
of animal biodiversity even though it has been drafted after the Biodiversity
Convention was signed. In fact, by recommending the wiping out of draught
power, the policy is indirectly writing a death certificate for indigenous
breeds which have been evolved as dual purpose breeds for both dairy and
drought power or a specialised draught animals. By a one dimensional focus
on dairy and meat alone, and a deliberate destruction of the animal energy
economy, the policy tadtly promotes the replacement of diverse indigenous
breeds by uniform breeds from Europe. One-dimensional thinking thus leads
to a monoculture of farm animals bred and maintained through extemal imported
inputs for an export oriented economy.
Aggravating the Fodder Crisis.
The primary reason for decline of cattle is the shortage of fodder. The
fodder crisis has three roots - one lies in agriculture policy based on
Green Revolution technolgoies which undermined the sources of fodder from
agricultural crops. Mgh Yielding Varieties were bred for grain and led to
decline in fodder.
The second source of the fodder crisis lies in aid programmes such as "social
forestry" and "farm forestry" projects which promoted the
planting of monocultures of non-fodder species such as Eucalyptus, thus
aggravating the shortage of fodder.
Finally, the enclosure of the commons has also led to scardty of grazing
lands and pastures. In addition there has been a scarcity of cattle feed
both because traditional sources of cattle feed such as oil cakes have declined
as a result of the Green Revolution which displaced oil seeds and because
new sources sudi as soya bean cake are largely exported. The Agricultural
Nflnister recently announced that he wanted a spedal port set up for the
export of soya bean cake. Industrial countries such as Netherlands use seven
times more land than their own in Third World countries for fodder and feed
to provide inputs to their intensive factory fam-dng. The livestock policy
does recognise the crisis of fodder and feed in India but fails to provide
solutions. In fact, by promoting intensive factory farming, it is indirectly
proposing a system that will intensify the pressure on land, divert land
from food for people to food to animals and further erode the scarce environmental
resources of the country.
As Section 2.7 states: The feed and fodder resources are of course shared
by all livestock. Lactating cows and bullocks receive preferential treatment
while sheep and goats, dry and unproductive animals and backyard poultry
to a large extent have to fend for themselves. Agricultural residues are
currently estimated to provide 40%, grazing 31% green fodder (cut and cultivated)
26%, and grain and concentrates (mainly for conunercial poultry and high
producing cows) 3% of total consumption.'Over the last decade the straw
grain ratio has deteriorated because of the large scale adoption of high
yielding varieties which also produce poorer quality straw.
As Section 2.8 states: The amount of common property grazing land has deteriorated
sharply from 78m ha in 1950-51 to 55 m ha in 1988-89 (admittedly very crude
estimates) together with the quality of grazing in the remaining areas.
This has been at least partly compensated by encroachment into reserved
forest areas (67m ha) a large proportion of which (probably more than 50%)
now exhibit serious degradation (other factors than grazing may have contributed
to this state of affairs). Cultivated green fodder is estimated at 7 million
ha and is gaining in importance (particularly in the NW). The nutritional
constraints in dairy production are very real and the conditions under which
stall-feeding, concentrate feeding and cultivated fodder become viable options
are not very clear.
There is no recommendation in the policy that would improve the natural
resource and environmental base for ameliorating the fodder scarcity. Steps
in this direction would include:
The policy perspective has no reconunendations with respect to (a, b and
d) above. With respect to c, it recommends the opposite of what the environment
movement has been saying.
As Section 3.4 states:
We are doubtful about the chances of success in relation to
the village common (panchayat) lands and would not recommend any major effort
to establish management for and to regenerate this resource.
The Government Livestock Policy developed in collaboration with the Swiss
Development Corporation is thus the opposite of what an ecologically sound
animal husbandry policy should be given the information we now have about
the ecological and social externalities of intensive factory farming of
animals. Instead of promoting the conservation of indigenous breeds of cattle,
the policy presaibes the wiping out of local breeds. Instead of reducing
dependence on fossil fuels, the policy recommends replacing ploughs and
bullock carts %ith tractors. Instead of promoting reduction of meat eating
it promotes increase of meat production. Instead of recovering the commons
it suggests we should.let the commons disappear.
This is a prescription for wiping out biodiversity and worsening the climate
change crisis. Both the Indian govermnent and the Swiss government are thus
acting against their commitments made at the Earth Summit in Rio, in Agenda
21 as well as in the Biodiversity Convention and the Climate Change Convention.
The official policy needs to be totally revised to reflect people's concem,
goverranent obligations and full scientiflc and ecological knowledge that
is available about the enviromnerital and econon-dc costs of large scale,
centralised and intensive factory farming.
The People's Ecological Agenda.
For the livestock policy to be ecologically sound and socially just the
following elements must be urgently addressed.
- 1. Protection of native breeds and conservation of animal biodiversity
- 2. Strengthening the role of farm animals in sustainable agriculture
- 3. Stopping the slaughter of cattle for exports.
- 4. Stopping the export of oil cake and cattle feed
- 5. Taking urgent steps to improve the fodder situation through planting
appropriate crop species and trees and by rejuvenating the conunons-
- 6. Preventing the import of environmentally unsound methods of intensive
factory farming of animals which degrade and pollute the enviroranent and
cause health hazards to consumers.