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Mahatma Gandhi


32. Cow's Milk v. Buffalo's

The question whether cow's milk is superior to buffalo's has come up for inquiry in considering that of village reconstruction. I have addressed friends on the subject. Shri Haribhau Phatak has forwarded to me a letter received by him from Prof. Rao Bahadur Sahastrabuddhe, which reads as follows:

"With regard to your enquiry about the differences between cow milk and buffalo milk, I have to say that the fat and casein of cow milk are more easily digestible than those of buffalo milk. The cow milk has also greater amount of vitamins than buffalo milk. These qualities affect children and adults equally, but an adult can digest buffalo milk while a child cannot. I think this is all that you want."

He has also received an opinion from Dr. S. K. Apte of Sholapur, Vice-President, Gopalak Sangh, which is reproduced below, the names of those who sent replies themselves being omitted.

"This question whether cow milk is superior to buffalo milk is being discussed during the last three years, and this has had a good effect in attracting public attention to the utility of cow milk. In India, from older writings and age-long belief, it is conceded that cow milk is superior to buffalo milk. The same conclusion can be drawn from the fact that in other countries only cow's milk is used. But in this age of science, no theory is taken as accepted until it is proved by demonstrations. It will not do merely to say that cow milk is superior to buffalo milk because our ancestors did, and other countries do, use cow milk. The burden of proving that it is superior lies on those who assert so. There are several ways of proving this scientifically. They can be enumerated as follows:

1. To compare the merits and demerits of both milks by analysis of their components. It is possible chemically to ascertain the nutritive value of their components. Such an experiment has been made by Prof. Rao Bahadur D. L. Sahasrabuddhe of the Agricultural College, Poona, the details of which he has published in the Dnyanprakash dated 11-9-1934. He has made it clear therein not only that cow milk is very useful for the nutrition of young children but that buffalo milk is actually harmful to them. Prof. Sahasrabuddhe says :

'The buffalo milk is rich in fat, which children cannot digest. On account of indigestion they suffer from Diarrhoea. The acids in the undigested fat draw up salts from the body which are necessary for the building of bones and the lack of which is responsible for rickets. The fats in cow milk and buffalo milk differ from each other in their digestive properties. The percentage of volatile and soluble acids is greater in cow ghee, and consequently it is more easily digested.'

The experiment which Prof. Sahasrabuddhe has made also proves that the casein in cow milk is digested in the stomach more easily than that in the buffalo milk. His whole essay is informative and instructive.

To make two equal groups of boys or men living under the same conditions and to provide one batch with about a seer of cow milk and the other with an equal amount of buffalo milk for a certain period and to watch and record the physical, mental, and intellectual development of each member of both the groups. This is second way of ascertaining which milk is superior to the other. No such experiment is made in Europe or America as there are no buffaloes there. The Gopalak Sangh of Sholapur had written to the Hoard's Dairy-man for information as to which countries except India use buffaloes as dairy animals. The reply to this query shows that buffalo milk is used outside India only in the Philippine Islands and the southern part of China. As for the Philippine Islands, however, the residents there prefer cow milk to buffalo as they are convinced of the utility and importance of the former (vide Gorakshan, Poona of 28-4-'34). An experiment of the above nature is, therefore, not likely to be made anywhere outside India. This experiment will have to be made on some students residing in a Boarding House. This being an expensive task, the Gopalak Sangh, Sholapur, had requested other cow-protection societies and philanthropic rich men to finance the Sangh for a comparative study of this nature, but it is regrettable that none of them came forward. If sufficient pecuniary help had been obtained, the experiment could easily have been carried on in the Dr. Chati Anath Vidyarthi Graha, Sholapur, by selecting two groups of boys in that boarding, and providing each group with a sufficient quantity of either milk and marking the results. I earnestly request every institution and individual to see if any one can make such an experiment and to publish the result thereof.

3. This comparative experiment on human beings is a matter of great expense. It is possible to try this experiment on animals, especially rats and guinea pigs kept in experimental laboratories. As the Gopalak Sangh has no material available for this sort of experiment it has written to the Government Pasteur Institute at Coonoor to try such an experiment: but no reply has yet been received from the authorities there.

4. The Gopalak Sangh, Sholapur, took recourse to a fourth, and the easiest, way towards this end. A questionnaire regarding cow and buffalo milks was prepared and sent some six months back to various doctors, physicians, research experts, newspapers and periodicals, and Government officers in Medical and Health Departments in and outside India. About seven hundred copies in Marathi and English of this questionnaire were then sent out. Many newspapers and periodicals in India and Hoard's Dairyman in America published it and asked for the views of their readers thereon. Of the replies we received, only two came from outside India - one from America and the other from the Government Medical Department in Ceylon. About fifty replies have been received so far.

The following are the conclusions deducible from the replies :

1. Buffalo milk is injurious to the development of children and only cow milk is,, in the absence of mother's milk, useful to them.

2. Cow milk, being easily digestible, is more beneficial to patients than buffalo milk.

3. There is no definite evidence to show that the use of buffalo milk by adults is in any way injurious. Mr. Bruen, the livestock expert to the Government of Bombay, says that buffalo milk is hard to digest by a person of any age, because the excess fat in buffalo milk when it forms soap in the intestine, is hard to digest with usual amount of salts, and it takes the deficient quantity of the mineral salts from bones, which are consequently weakened. This does not occur in the digestion of cow milk.

4. Cow milk is useful for intellectual growth mainly of children. No definite conclusion can be drawn regarding better effect of cow milk on the intellectual growth of adults.

5. If, instead of rearing up buffaloes, cows are kept in the city, it will produce a beneficial effect on the general hygiene of that city with less expense."

The experiment that Dr. Apte has suggested is worth making. The question of the comparative merits of the cow and the buffalo is of national importance from many points of view. In no other country in the world do these animals play the part that they do in the life of the nation in India.

Even without further experiment, the opinions collected by Dr. Apte of eminent medical men and dairy experts sufficiently prove the superiority of cow's milk over buffalo's.

Harijan, 22-2-1935