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 :-

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. (Section 3.10)

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.

Animal Energy.

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 logic.

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" of cattle.

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:
a) shift to agricultural crops and crop varieties that produce food for both animals and humans. For eg. our seed conservation programme - Navdanya has shown that high fodder yielding varieties are the most popular among fanners.

b) Shift to fodder trees 'm agroforestry and sociil forestry programmes

c) recover and rejunevate the commons

d) stop export of cattle feed.

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. 1. Protection of native breeds and conservation of animal biodiversity

  2. 2. Strengthening the role of farm animals in sustainable agriculture

  3. 3. Stopping the slaughter of cattle for exports.

  4. 4. Stopping the export of oil cake and cattle feed

  5. 5. Taking urgent steps to improve the fodder situation through planting appropriate crop species and trees and by rejuvenating the conunons-

  6. 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.

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