I have talked about the treatment towards cows in India before too, and here is a detailed description of the same. Cows are treated as holy animals and are worshipped in India. Cows not only give us milk, even their waste is found to be of great medicinal use. Two to three decades ago, Indian households use to have cow as a pet in every house. It was worshiped and taken very good care of. Limited amount of milk used to be taken from the cow and selling the milk of a household cow was considered a sin.
Let us explore into the milk extraction process. Wherever cows or buffalos are used for commercial milking, the milk is extracted forcefully. At some places this is done manually while at others, it is done through machines. However, in ancient India this was not the case. This practice is still followed in some rural areas.
People keep a cow as well as its calf together as pets. When the calf needs the milk in the morning, it goes to its mother and asks for it. Then the cow naturally releases the milk and the calf consumes milk according to its requirement. After the calf is done, only then the cow is milked. It is good to see that the cow does not resist when the milkman attempts to milk it at that time. However, the process is very difficult if milking is attempted before the calf has had its part.
These villagers use no drugs or machine to milk a cow, it happens smoothly and happily. They take care of the cow and its calf and supposedly the cow does not mind sharing some of its extra milk in return. The amount of milk taken is very little and is used within the family only. It is a custom to still keep the cow even during its old age when it does not produce milk anymore. They treat it like a member of the family and even the cow responds to the affection and respect it gets.
However, this culture is fading now. People have started living in nuclear families and small apartments where keeping a cow at home is no more feasible. We have started to rely on dairy farms where hundreds cows and buffalos are bred and milk is distributed on a daily basis. The process is still manual at most places, but we don't know what future holds.
In my current opinion, consuming a little milk occasionally is fine. Like everything else, excess of dairy demand can go bad. Cows and buffalos would be under pressure to give more milk than they can naturally spare, and that would definitely be against animal rights and such situation must be avoided. I have heard of cows being given certain drugs to produce more milk which is a big drawback of commercialization of the process.
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Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)