- India’s dairy industry has lately come under fire from animal rights activists and the plant-based beverage industry on social media and other platforms.
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- Usually, these negative campaigns are used to promote plant-based beverages as alternative milk.
- False claims about the dairy businesses’ cruelty to animals, the toxicity involving milk consumption, and so on aim to polarise milk consumers and generate a false buzz about the dairy industry.
- Milk and milk products have been regarded as part of the vegetarian diet in our society since time immemorial.
- Besides, milking neither harms the animal nor its offspring.
- The rationale for this damage is to target India’s massive dairy market.
- Since 1998, India has been the world leader in milk production and consumption. This negative publicity erodes the dairy industry and polarizes milk consumers, particularly the young.
Role of social media
- Within a short period of time, social media has expanded at an exponential rate.
- Today’s society values attention in the form of likes, shares, subscriptions, and views. These metrics, apart from social rewards, also generate revenue.
- According to the We Are Social & Hootsuite study, India had 448.0 million social media users in January 2021, accounting for 32.3 percent of the Indian population.
- Social media users rose by 21 per cent between 2020 and 2021, with 92 per cent being in the 18-34 age-group.
- On average, Indians spend two-and-a-half hours on social media daily. Despite tightening regulations, fake news is shared freely.
- As a result, the so-called animal lovers and those who wish to promote plant-based beverages as milk replacers challenge the dairy business by labelling them cruel, harmful, etc.
- Impact on Dairy Sector: It stands to reason that the dairy sector needs to respond to safeguard the interests of 100 million dairy producers. Besides, the general public needs to comprehend the Indian dairy industry’s ecosystem.
- The Indian dairy sector is distinct from that of western countries. Around 100 million dairy farmers are milk producers. Of these, 70 per cent are marginal, whose livelihoods depend solely on dairying.
- In India, demonising dairy will lead to destroying the livelihoods of millions of dairy farmers.
- Dairy is critical for reducing poverty, improving health, gender equality, economic growth, and job creation. Therefore, such false claims about the dairy sector on social media are unacceptable.
- The Indian dairy cooperative system needs to be commended for weathering the Covid storm well. During the most stringent of lockdowns, dairy farmers ceaselessly delivered supplies. Defying innumerable challenges, including social media victimisation, the Indian dairy sector remained firm in assisting its farmers.
- Attacking the dairy industry requires nil effort while claiming a product as an alternative to dairy goods is simple. Plant-based beverages that utilise the term “milk” can attract more consumers with free PR. Recently, dairy producers in Australia campaigned against the labelling of plant-based drinks as “milk”.
Views of Environmentalists
- Assigning a larger share of the blame for climate change to the dairy industry is unfair.
- Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion must bear a disproportionately greater responsibility since they have a longer-lasting impact on the environment than methane emissions, which have a short-term effect.
- According to Climate Watch’s study on sector-specific GHG emissions (2020), the energy sector is responsible for 73.2 percent of GHG emitted to the environment, followed by direct industrial process (5.2 per cent), waste (3.2 per cent), and agriculture, forestry and land use (18.4 per cent).
- Out of 18.4 percent of agriculture, forestry, and land use, total livestock and manure account for 5.8 percent of GHG.
- Hence it is speculative to assert that dairy is more responsible for climate change without first assessing its impact on human health.
International Studies & Reports
- The FAO acknowledges human and animal health interdependence, estimating that more than 70 per cent of extra animal protein would be needed to feed the world by 2050.
- According to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the livestock sector in developing nations accounts for up to 80 percent of agricultural GDP, with 600 million rural people relying on it.
- FAO acknowledges livestock’s contribution to SDGs. In terms of value, milk is the most important product in India.
- It is worth about ₹8.7 lakh crore, accounting for 5.1 per cent of overall Gross value addition (GVA) and 30 percent of agricultural GVA. The milk business is based in rural India and is dominated by cooperatives.
- Referred to as a ‘near-complete food’, no product provides a higher level of nutrients than milk. Milk is a natural product, while plant-based products are synthetic.
- Undoubtedly, there is no comparison between milk and plant-based drinks. The latter are allowed to advertise, but not by using the brand equity of the term “milk”.
Other Crisis in Dairy Sector
- Production of milk is subject to seasonal fluctuations — animals, particularly buffaloes, produce more during winter-spring and less in the summer.
- In order to cope with this fluctuation, the farmers usually convert the surplus milk of the “flush” season (winter) into skimmed milk powder (SMP) and ghee/butter for reconstitution in the “lean” months (summer).
- This demand and supply mismatch has led to a crisis in the Dairy sector.
- Dairy is currently the top-ranking commodity in India, with the value of output almost equal to the combined output value of rice and wheat. Despite the importance of the dairy sector in overall GDP, it receives less government budgeting than the agriculture sector.
- Short-Term Measure
- The government should consider temporary procurement of milk, directly by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).
- NDDB may create a buffer stock of processed dairy products like skimmed milk powder (SMP) and butter.
- Also, state governments may consider distributing these dairy products in Mid-May Meal, when schools reopen.
- By this way, the crisis in the dairy sector and nutritional security both can be addressed.
- Long-Term Measures
- Increasing Productivity: There is a need to increase the productivity of animals, better health care and breeding facilities and management of dairy animals. This can reduce the cost of milk production.
- Also, milk production and productivity can be enhanced by ensuring the availability of veterinary services, artificial insemination (AI), feed and farmer education.
- The Government and dairy industry can play a vital role in this direction.
- Augmenting Production, Processing and Marketing Infrastructure: If India has to emerge as a dairy exporting country, it is imperative to develop proper production, processing and marketing infrastructure, which is capable of meeting international quality requirements.
- Thus, there is a need for a comprehensive strategy for producing quality and safe dairy products that should be formulated with suitable legal backup.
- Further, to address the infrastructure deficit in rural areas and address the power shortage, there is a need to invest in solar powered dairy processing units.
- Also, there is a need to strengthen dairy cooperatives. In this pursuit, the government should promote farmer producer organisations.
- Demand for dairy products in India is likely to grow significantly in the coming years, driven by more consumers, higher incomes and greater interest in nutrition. Further, the dairy industry is critical for realising the goal of doubling the farmer’s income.
- The dairy industry needs to start sensitising the public about the benefits of dairy. It needs to promote dairy and its health benefits on social media.
- Society must note that dairy is the only source of animal protein and natural B complex vitamins for the vegetarian population. Vegans have now begun comprehending the nutritional deficiencies they are faced with.
- Last but not least, defamation of dairy and its products needs to be addressed by the government and food safety authorities.
“Milk is a unique crop that farmers harvest daily. But, False claims about the dairy businesses’ cruelty to animals, the toxicity involving milk consumption, and so on aim to polarise milk consumers and generate a false buzz about the dairy industry. In the light of the above statement, discuss the various issues with the dairy sector in India. (250 words
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