It is nothing to hee-haw about. Don’t be surprised if someone approaches you and urges to try a bit of donkey’s milk citing its ‘nutritional benefits’.
Even as the first week of September is observed as National Nutrition Week, the demand for donkey’s milk is increasing in the city for its perceived nutritional value, even though there aren’t studies to prove it.
Traditionally, donkeys were reared by dhobis in the city, who would use them to carry bundles of clothes. People would approach dhobis and ask for donkey’s milk. Dhobis say that the nutritional value of donkey’s milk is known. On an average, every day up to three persons visit the dhobi ghats, most of which have a herd, seeking donkey’s milk.
Puttalingaiah, state general secretary of the Karnataka Rajya Madiwalara Sangha, said that some dhobis have taken to rearing donkeys with the sole intention of selling the milk. “Donkeys do not produce much milk. But, just a spoonful is usually fed to infants,” he said and added that around 50 ml of donkey’s milk can cost anywhere between Rs. 50 and Rs. 300.
Puttaraju P., a dhobi at the Old and New Dhobi Ghat in Malleswaram who rears donkeys, said that it is believed that donkey’s milk protects infants from cough, cold and phlegm.
The demand for donkey’s milk was even discussed at the Legislative Council recently.
MLC V.S. Ugrappa said that there is need for a study to ascertain the benefits or ill-effects of donkey’s milk in the interest of public health. “Since demand is increasing and because it is now being sold at people’s doorsteps, donkey’s milk should be tested and nutritional value assessed,” he said.
Meanwhile, Riyaz Basha S., associate professor, Department of Community Medicine, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, told The Hindu that while the lactose content in donkey’s milk is higher than that of cow’s milk, there is no study that proves that it is nutritious for humans. “Earlier, it may have been prescribed for children. However, studies have proven that mother’s milk is best for newborn babies. We advocate breast feeding infants, as per the Centre’s guidelines,” he said.