The Plastic Calf

The Plastic Calf

“Its just hopeless”, sighed the vet, “her digestive system is just not restarting”. For a long time now Radha, a 5 year old Gir Cow at the Govardhan Eco Village Goshala was not keeping well. She would hardly eat and her stomach would always be bloated. Radha arrived here at GEV some 6 months back. Her previous home was a little-known cow barn in the state of Gujarat in India. When she arrived here many thought she was pregnant. But right since her arrival at GEV she was not like the other cows. She always kept to herself and unlike others she was not very enthusiastic while grazing on the vast grasslands. Even while some of her chirpier friends would sometime playfully fight with her, she would always remain calm. We all thought its just the change in environment and she just needs to get adjusted to her new home and in a few weeks time she will be like the other cows.

The Plastic Calf 3As time past she did show some improvement but her appetite has not improved. And for the past one month her condition was worse. So we invited the local veterinary officer to inspect her. After a careful observation the vet told us his diagnosis, which came as an dismal shock to us. He said, “the cause of the cow’s anorexia, or loss of appetite, is due to huge quantity of plastic stuck in her digestive system”. “Plastic!”, exclaimed one of our Goshala attendants. The word plastic never caused so much terror in our hearts. “But there is absolutely no chance of any plastic mixing in their food”, argued the Goshala in-charge. Then the doctor inquired, “when she arrived at GEV, how was her stomach?” Then it struck to us that she was not pregnant but was carrying a painful load of plastic in her abdomen. Perhaps the previous owner carelessly left her to graze anywhere and everywhere and the innocent creature might have been feeding on plastic. The doctor suggested that we do an immediate rumenotomy operation. The surgery involves making a incision on the stomach of the cow, big enough for his hand to get in. Then the vet will 3 manually pull out the plastic stuck in the stomach. A date was set and the operation began smoothly. It was amazing to see Radha totally unfazed as the vet was literally pulling things out of her stomach. When the operation “plastic” began, the vet started pulling out shreds of plastic. After about an hour of pulling, the vet said its only 20% done! Wonder how many years the poor creature was feeding on plastic. As the plastic had accumulated for over years in her stomach, it had converted into a huge lump. So pulling it out was a big challenge. But the vet was very confident and he did manage to pull all of it out. It was an astounding 30 kgs of plastic, a steel spoon and coin that was stuck in her stomach all these months. Radha looked happy and relieved as she delivered the “plastic calf”. Though the plastic was out, her digestive system which was still a cause of concern. All the years of plastic contamination has practically ruined her system, so things are still not out of danger.

In India, a land where the cows are revered and worshiped, unfortunately today the number of such cases have risen sharply. Plastic has become literally ubiquitous, thanks to the convenience and the economic advantages it offers. But like all modern conveniences, plastic also comes at a price. Unlike the natural alternatives, plastic is not biodegradable. It takes literally centuries for it to 4 breakdown and there is no alternative of disposing it other than burning it or dumping in a landfill. But that also poses many serious environmental repercussions. Owing to all these factors, plastic is banned in many parts of the world. Even in India there is a ban on the use of plastic in many places but in spite of repeated warnings both the authorities and the citizens have conveniently disregarded this injunction. Many people dumps large quantities of plastic indiscriminately in open areas, road sides, grasslands and parks. Often much of domestic organic waste like fruit and vegetable scraps, leftovers etc., are disposed off in plastic covers. And the poor creatures feed on them along with the plastic cover. Even Radha was a victim of such insensitive plastic use.

About a decade ago in India there was a spree of mysterious death of many stray animals. Authorities initially thought it was some mysterious disease. But later the cause was found to be excessive consumption of plastic. With booming economy, a lot of grasslands and cow grazing areas in India are now being converted into real estates and industrial parks. With unavailability of free grass, many cattle owners are forced to abandon their animals, unable to bear the mounting costs of cattle feed. These animals end up on the streets and survive by feeding off the garbage cans and other forms of trash. And in the process they consume such dangerously high levels of plastic that they end up dying a miserably painful death. Post this incident the government had imposed a ban on plastic below a certain micron level thickness, but unfortunately this ban has not yet been implemented seriously. One can still very easily find plastic bags being given openly by all shopkeepers and roadside vendors. Its high time we all take a firm stand against indiscriminate use of plastic and curb this plastic evil.

It’s been three days since the operation and Radha’s situation had still not improved. The next morning the vet was called for again. He saw her and found her situation very critical. He was getting frail as her digestive system was not functioning. Just hours after the vet’s visit Radha died. It was painful for all of us, thinking what she had to undergo, for no fault of hers. In her death she taught us all a very important lesson, although a very painful lesson it may be.

The Plastic Calf

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