HELP FARMERS SWITCH TO SUSTAINABLE NATURAL FARMING INSTEAD OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

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This is a petition (started on 7th September 2019) to the Government of Maharashtra to transition farmers to natural plant farming instead of trying to revive the poultry, goat and dairy industries in the flood affected areas of Kolhapur, Satara, and Sangli.

Many Indian states have gone through unusual floods this monsoon season. Maharashtra is witnessing colossal after-effects of the floods, especially in the agro-rich belt of Western Maharashtra. 270 human lives are reported to have been lost to the fury of the floods across Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala and the numbers are likely to go up. According to news reports, from April 2016 to July 18, 2019, over 6,000 people and 2 lakh livestock were killed in floods across India. During the Aug 2019 floods more than 8000 cows/buffaloes, 2500 sheep/goats and 23000 hens met their end in flood waters in just a few days in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur districts alone according to reports. These animals in captivity were rendered helpless either by the chains and ropes they were tied down with or by the sheer conditioning of their distressed confined lives that took away their ability to escape. There are countless horrific images of bullocks dying while still tied to their carts or cows drowning in their own sheds from which they could not escape. Many farmers tried their best to move their cattle to higher floors of the houses they lived in, but most humans barely managed to get out and were forced to leave behind animals who had no means to escape the flood waters.

While dairy farming is a state-supported activity intended to support farmers’ livelihoods, animal agriculture has not been the best “revolution” or strategy for the Indian farm sector or the planet. These same animals sacrificed to the floods, had been augmenting the incomes of small farmers albeit only to a small extent contrary to popular perception. Dairy has forced most farmers into fodder-cropping, even at the expense of human food-crop sufficiency. The lure of hard cash has pushed most small farmers to rear cows, but many farmers experience that this activity is actually without any tangible economic prosperity on the ground, which is sadly inconsistent with expectations. In fact, droughts were followed by floods and the situation went from bad to worse. The Maharashtra government has extended the fodder-camps (started during the dry summer) until September 30th, 2019 because the cattle owners are still not in a position to procure/grow adequate green and dry fodder for their “livestock” animals. Evidently, without government assistance, dairy farming is a disaster.

DISASTROUS EFFECTS OF ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

1. Deforestation and its Impact: The increase in animal farming, especially for milk, has led to a huge depletion of forest cover. In order to cut costs, farmers graze their cattle by encroaching on protected forest land. This is proving to be burdensome on the environment. The root cause of increased natural disasters like droughts and excessive flooding is the immense imbalance caused due to such man-made activities in defiance of natural eco systems. Until and unless this root cause is dealt with and farmers are encouraged to take up sustainable and natural plant food farming for direct human consumption, natural disasters will continue to rise. 

2. Carbon and Water Footprint of Animal Agriculture: The carbon footprint of animal agriculture is dreadfully large: monstrous water consumption, fodder crops exhausting land resources, which compromises human-food agriculture, and dangerous levels of methane emissions from ruminant “livestock”. This reality is rapidly being accepted by FAO, the UN, IPCC and many agriculture and climate scientists. In times of extreme water scarcity, India can ill afford to use up precious water in farming fodder, when the same amount of water can help grow food crops for its citizens. It is a known fact that plant based foods have a much lower water footprint. Additional resources/reading: https://youtu.be/aei-Xtt6tVw https://bit.ly/2lzp4Ck

3. Health Hazards: There is an increased awareness among urban consumers about unsuitability of animal flesh (including the flesh of chickens, goats and bovine animals) as well as dairy milk for the human body. People today also realize that the milk of any animal is designed by nature to nourish the new born offspring of that particular species and that no other adult animal consumes the milk of another species. Lifestyle diseases are being attributed to this factor as well as the undesirable doses of hormones and antibiotics reaching the human gut by way of milk. Plant based doctors are now more than ever reversing lifestyle diseases on a Whole-Food Plant-Based (WFPB) diet and therefore animal agriculture is only making India the capital for diseases like diabetes, arthritis, etc. Additional resources/reading: https://bit.ly/349VXrj | www.sharan-india.org (run by Nari Shakti awardee Dr Nandita Shah)

4. Compassion and Sentience: The horrors suffered by animals around whom the poultry, meat and dairy “industries” are built, are the worst, both while they live their pathetic confined lives on farms and when their lives are taken brutally in slaughter houses or in disasters like the floods this year. Moreover, by “gifting” animals the government is reinforcing the commodification of sentient animals. Even though our constitution and the laws of our country recognise the dignity of all animals, our actions do not. Animal agriculture merely sees the economic value of animals and their lives do not matter: they are just bearing the brunt of human exploitation. Additional reading: https://bit.ly/2MM14sc | https://youtu.be/gR2seXSBV4g (When you eat, I see this.)

5. Beef and Goat Export: The domestic milk market is actually the factory of beef production considering beef is not consumed by most Indians. In fact, we’re the second largest exporters of beef in the world because we have the largest bovine population in the world, which is the dairy industry. India as a country is also losing invaluable water-resources through embedded water molecules in poultry, goat, goat meat, and even more so in beef export. Additional reading: https://bit.ly/2Lcszcn

6. Economic Myths in Small Dairy Farming: Dairy farm incomes at the farmer level are much less than projected, as large aggregators rule the market in collection, pasteurisation, bagging and distribution. The farmer is paid pittance for milk, which is based on fat-content determined at collection centres. On the input side, large-scale drought conditions have meant huge costs of dry and green fodder. The cost of artificial insemination and the veterinary care involved is a fixed regular expense and hence majorly overlooked by farmers. The mortality of cattle remains a worrying aspect considering the repetitive nature of floods and famines, exacerbated by Climate Change of which animal agriculture is itself a major cause. Farmers face a double disadvantage when crops as well as cattle perish as a result of extreme weather events. Moreover, the cattle-feed industry is also controlled by large corporations, effectively disadvantaging the farmer.
Additional reading: https://bit.ly/2Lcszcn |

There are gross misbeliefs around the idea of poultry, goat and dairy farming, and we haven’t even touched on water pollution, desertification, loss of biodiversity, and hunger. In the aftermath of the floods this year, social and political calls are being raised from misinformed quarters to assuage the flood-affected farmers’ distress by “gifting” them cows/buffaloes/goats through state government funds. Considering all the above, it is crucial to lead the farmers to more environment-friendly human food oriented plant farm practices. At a time when excessive chemical inputs in mono-crop farms are also being identified as the causes of poor ground water percolation, it is time to hand-hold farmers into harvesting naturally grown multi crop sustainable human-food-oriented plant farming and lead them away from the delusion of profits from hurtful animal farming.

The present disaster could be turned into an opportunity to re-engineer farmers’ lives and enable them to evolve their livelihoods from sustainable farms of the future while assuring food security for our entire population. 

We therefore ask the government to take the decision to help farmers switch to a more sustainable, eco-friendly, financially viable, health supporting, compassionate form, of human food oriented multi-crop natural plant farming and/or food forests and NOT support by any means the reopening of dairy/chicken/goat farming activity by small farmers.