In India, it is more than just a dietary need. It is a weapon to fight malnutrition and to support the livelihood of millions of Indian farmers. Not long back, there was a war of words between animal rights organisation PETA and dairy brand Amul along with its company Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), MD, RS Sodhi.
The gist of that clash was: PETA suggested Amul adopt the vegan food and milk market, to which Sodhi responded this will “snatch the livelihood of 100 million of poor Indian farmers”.
Let us get some context to this.
It cannot be forgotten that around 85 per cent of the farmers are small farmers in India. “They own 45 per cent of the land and own 75 per cent of the animals in the country. There is more equitable distribution of animals in India than land,” stated Arun Raste, Executive Director, NDDB in a recent webinar on Poverty Alleviation. He further stated that dairy is one of the sectors that can help alleviate the rural poor in the country.
This is a financial implication but there is another implication which Sodhi explains.
Blaming PETA for running a ‘malicious’ campaign against milk, Sodhi said, “It is a free market. Anyone can sell their product. But defaming another product to support profiteering companies without scientific backing is not the way.”
He stressed Indian law does not recognise plant-based drinks as milk. As per Codex Alimentarius – the international food code developed jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), milk is the normal mammary secretion of lactating animals, obtained by milking without any addition or extraction from it.
“Most of these plant-based products are made into drinks which they call milk after adding several ingredients, which is not the case in actual milk,” explained Sodhi.
On the occasion of World Milk Day, he said such campaigns against the Indian milk industry will not impact or devalue milk as Indians understand the value of milk as it helps supports the protein needs of the country. “But our fight is only to protect those customers who adopt plant-based milk without truly understanding their implications," he asserted.