Environment

Watch: Activists Say Plastic Kills Most Cows in India

Clementien Pauws and Rukmini Sekhar speak to The Wire about the struggle, the recent issue of gau rakshaks and the battle that lies ahead as the plastics lobby is proving to be quite strong.

When Clementien Pauws came to India from Holland in 1995 along with her husband and son, she was moved by the suffering of animals all around. In Holland, which is known for its milk and cheese, the treatment meted out to animals, especially cattle, was much different. After working with a small group of people for some time, Pauws formed the Karuna Society for Animals and Nature in 2000 to widen the horizon of take care of milking animals and starving calves.

But what really moved her was when in 2010 a cow under her care died despite good care and in the post-mortem it was revealed that she had large quantities of plastic in her stomach. Subsequently more animals fell sick or died due to the same reason. This led to the rise of ‘The Plastic Cow Project’ under which the Karuna Society began conducting surgeries on cows for removing plastic from their stomach.

In 2012, a filmmaker, Kunal Vohra, also made a documentary on the subject, The Plastic Cow, showing how up to 53 kg of waste was extracted from inside one animal. Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi also mentioned how more cows died by consuming plastics than due to slaughter.

However, his government has done little in the last two years to ban plastic bags so that cows, and also almost all other herbivores, including wild ones like elephants and deers, do not end up ingesting plastics.

Karuna Society, Pauws, writer and animal rights activist Rukmini Sekhar and Pradeep Nath of Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals, Visakhapatnam had also filed a public interest litigation in Supreme Court seeking a total ban on plastic bags as a purely animal rights litigation. The apex court in 2012 acknowledged that plastics bags and their unregulated disposal posed a threat more serious than the atom bomb for the next generation. Then in November 2014 it asked the states to be sympathetic towards animals by banning plastic bags —

With little action being taken by the states, Pauws and Sekhar are  approaching officials in the central government to seek necessary directions in the matter.

Talking to The Wire they spoke about the struggle, the recent issue of gau rakshaks and the battle that lies ahead as the plastics lobby is proving to be quite strong.