Cattle in the city’s illegal dairies are being subjected to various forms of cruelty, including hot iron branding and being administered hormone injections, animal rights activists and local authorities have found.

The civic body in North Delhi has this week decided to crack down on unauthorised dairies, citing the deplorable treatment being meted out to animals. For the first time, it will use provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to take action against offenders.

“We have found cattle being branded by the owners so they can identify them. After finishing the milking, the dairy owners allow the cattle to roam on the streets, where they eat garbage and come under the wheels of vehicles,” said Mohan Bharadwaj, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation Standing Committee chairman.

Animal welfare groups have found that cattle are confined and abused throughout the day. PETA India CEO Poorva Joshipura said: “Mother cows and buffalos typically spend most of their days confined to tiny stalls. Female calves are subjected to the same chaining, crude artificial insemination and abuse as their mothers.”

Ms. Joshipura added that PETA’s investigation of dairies had found animals being routinely beaten, denied medical care and being made to “stand and lie in piles of their own faeces”.

Apart from the horrible living conditions, the cattle are subjected to illegal and cruel means to increase their milk output. Ambika Shukla, director of the Sanjay Gandhi Animal Care Centre, which houses cattle rescued from these dairies, said: “The dairies inject milk-giving cows with oxytocin, which is a Schedule H drug, twice a day.”

Ms. Shukla explained that oxytocin is given to ease labour in women and when given to cows, it affects their uterus. It does not make the total output more, but just makes the milk gush out faster. “Basically, the cows go through labour pains twice a day,” explained Ms. Shukla.

“When milk production wanes, cattle are often either abandoned or sold for slaughter,” said Ms. Joshipura.

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