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.

Important points:

  • 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.

Way Forward

  • 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.


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