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In Photos: Study Exposes Horrific Sexual Abuse And Torture In Indian Dairy Production

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IMPACT: The first nation-wide study of its kind, this story exposed the dark side of milk consumption in India. It was read by more than 4 lakh people and shared by thousands.


Most of us start or end our day with a glass of milk, knowing very little about how that glass of milk was produced. A documentary released on National Milk Day covers the entire process of dairy production.

The documentary, titled “Deadly Dairy”, is an outcome of Animal Equality’s study covering small, medium and large dairies across in the North (Haryana and Punjab), South (Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka), East (Uttar Pradesh) and West (Gujarat and Maharashtra) of India. During the study 107 dairy farms, two semen collection centres, 11 cattle markets, eight slaughterhouses, seven meat markets and five tanneries were visited covering all the cruelties inflicted on dairy animals, from birth to slaughter.


Reproduction in dairy does not take place through natural mating anymore. According to our study, 100% of the dairy farms covered in the study used artificial insemination, irrespective of its size. At semen collection centres, bulls are unnaturally made to mate with other bulls known as ‘teasers’, who are made submissive by cruel means like beating.

Semen collected from such tormented bulls is inserted into the uterus of the female animal, often by inexperienced men with unsterile equipment in unhygienic conditions. This process, called artificial insemination, is repeated year after year.

Death Of Male Calves

According to the study and on-ground research, 100% of the dairy farms had calves tied away from their mothers. In some cases, they were tied away immediately after birth. This is done to ensure that calves do not drink any milk.

In 100% of the dairy farms, male calves are either sold for slaughter or starved to death as they do not produce milk and add to the cost of the dairy owner. Dairy farmers have accepted this practice on record in the study.


When the calf is taken away, a cow will mourn the loss. She withholds milk, as she only wants to nurse her young. Dead calves are stuffed with hay to trick the mother into thinking it’s her baby.

When this doesn’t work, dairy workers use illegal drugs, such as ‘oxytocin’. It is a common misconception that this drug increases milk output; all it does is expand the muscle thereby releasing the milk.

Oxytocin induces labour-like pains and is known to harm the reproductive cycle of animals thereby reducing their life expectancy. And the consumption of milk from animals injected with oxytocin is known to cause severe hormonal imbalances among its consumers.

Female calves are fed milk formulas and eventually, they replace the older female animals and are subjected to the same cruel cycle.

Standard Cruelties

Dairy animals do not receive any exercise whatsoever. They are tethered with short ropes all their lives forcing them to sit in their own faeces and urine. Some dairy farmers have gone on record saying that the animals don’t need any exercise.

The animals are often brutally hit with sticks or chains, punched, kicked and subjected to sexual abuse as workers shove their fingers inside the cows’ sensitive genitals.

There is no veterinary doctor on board and many of the dairy owners self-medicate the animals in order to save costs. Many animals were seen with injuries or suffering from untreated diseases.

Abandoned Animals

Some of the owners resort to abandoning the sick animals, which makes the animals susceptible to accidents, attacks, consumption of garbage containing plastic, paralysis, etc.

A lesser-known fact is that animals raised for dairy are ultimately sold for meat. Earlier animals who stopped producing milk were sold for slaughter but more than 75% of the dairies sell their animals even when their production declines by one or two litres.

Cattle markets meant for the sale of agricultural bulls and dairy animals often facilitate the sale of unproductive animals and newborn male calves for slaughter. More than 30 animals were stuffed in a truck which should not carry more than six animals as per the Transport Rules 1978. The men shove sticks or fingers in animals’ genitals, rub chilly in their eyes, twist break the tails to make them submissive.

At the slaughterhouses, the butchers fail to kill the animals in one slit. They repeatedly slit the animal’s throat resulting in severe shock. It’s a routine act to kill an animal in full view of others waiting in the queue. It is also noticed that the animals are alive while they are skinned.

Some meat shops in Kerala practice barbaric ‘hammer slaughter’ where the animal is repeatedly bludgeoned with a hammer on the head till the animal falls unconscious.

India has more than 327 million cattle. It may seem that cattle are protected but they are subjected to this torture every day. Cattle generally live up to 15-25 years but because of all these cruelties, their bodies begin to deteriorate at the age of four or five.

These cruel practices are a blatant violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, the Transport Rules, 1978, the Slaughterhouse Rules 2001 and various orders from High Courts and Supreme Court of India.

From birth to their deaths, the dairy production cycle is rife with animal abuse. Knowingly, or unknowingly, we as consumers are contributing to the sexual abuse, torture and ultimately, the death of innocent animals. Is all of this worth it just for a glass of milk?

It is, for this reason, many people across the world, including India, are eliminating milk and milk products from their diet and replacing it with plant-based alternatives derived from coconut, almond, soya, rice, oats and cashew milk.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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