The dairy industry has been a subject of intense debate in recent years, fueled by climate change crisis concerns worldwide as well as the advancement of various plant-based alternatives claiming to be more sustainable replacements.
- With the help of White Revolution, India has transitioned from a milk-deficient country to the largest producer of milk globally.
- The Anand model (Amul), which has been replicated across the country, boosted milk production.
- Harvesting animals for dairy and animal-based products is crucial for food security, poverty alleviation and other social needs.
- However, there are harmful consequences of animal harvesting on climate.
- Further, animal rearing has been criticized heavily by non-profit organisations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for performing cruelty against animals.
- Economic Dependence: Harvesting animals for dairy and animal-based products in India is a major source of livelihood for 150 million dairy farmers.
- The dairy sector accounts for 4.2% of the national gross domestic product.
- Dairy sector is the second-largest employment sector after agriculture in India.
- Social Importance: Dairy products are a rich source of essential nutrients that contributes to a healthy and nutritious diet.
- With demand for high-quality animal sourced protein increasing globally, the dairy sector is well placed to contribute to global food security and poverty reduction through the supply of dairy products.
- Agriculture contributes approximately 16% of India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which is released by cattle during dairy farming.
- Methane from animal waste contributes about 75% of the total GHG emissions of the dairy sector.
- Recently, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed an anti-methanogenic feed supplement ‘Harit Dhara’ (HD), which can cut down cattle methane emissions by 17-20% and can also result in higher milk production.
- The three major GHGs emitted from agri-food systems, namely methane (CH₄), nitrous oxide (N₂O) and carbon dioxide (CO₂).
- Increasing Pressure on Natural Resources: With this increasing demand for dairy, there is growing pressure on natural resources, including freshwater and soil.
- Multinational companies such as Nestle and Danone have been accused of promoting water-intensive dairy industry in Punjab and the neighbouring states, which is fast depleting groundwater.
- Unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can lead to the loss of ecologically important areas, such as wetlands, and forests.
- The alarming loss of biodiversity is attributed to water- and energy-intensive crops needed to feed the cattle.
- Growing Demand: Global demand for dairy continues to increase in large part due to population growth, rising incomes, urbanization and westernization of diets in countries such as China and India.
- Alternate Employment & Social Forestry: With livelihoods of 150 million at stake, policymakers will need to identify alternative employment opportunities for the displaced masses.
- Large-scale social forestry could be an answer to address this fall-out, with positive consequences to the planet.
SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT