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On Saturday, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Science University (TANUVAS) removed 52 kilograms of plastic waste from a cow’s stomach, in a surgery which lasted for more than five hours.
The cow was brought from Thirumullaivoyal to TANUVAS in Vepery after its owner, Munirathnam, found that the animal was having problems in passing stool and urine, and had been kicking its abdomen in pain for some time. The cow’s milk yield also had dropped significantly, although it had delivered a calf a month ago. Munirathnam first consulted a local veterinarian, and then got the cow to TANUVAS.
After doing a few tests, taking an X-ray and an ultrasound scan, the doctors confirmed the presence of some foreign substance inside the animal’s stomach. A team of doctors led by Dr Balasubramanian, Directorate of Clinics, Assistant professors of surgery Dr Sivashankar and Dr Velavan, along with other senior surgeons decided to perform the operation. The team took five-and-a-half hours (from 11 am to 4:30 pm) to remove all the waste the cow had consumed for almost two years. The doctors said that 75 per cent of the cow’s digestive system had plastic.
Dr Balasubramanian said while speaking to indianexpress.com, a rumenotomy surgery to remove foreign substance from animals is not new, but it is the bulk of the material that is extraordinary. He further said that the digestive system of a ruminant is complex. If a foreign substance stays in for a long time, it adheres to the stomach. This leads to the animal developing air accumulation in the stomach and it startskicking its belly. Surgeons had performed such operations in the past, but 52 kg of waste inside the stomach of an animal is shocking.
Balasubramanian said that in TANUVAS, the registration fee is Rs 20 and the cost of surgery is Rs 50. But in a private hospital, with the cost of antibiotics, fluids, therapy, etc. the surgery will cost Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000. It is a huge amount for any person whose livelihood depends on these animals.
According to Dawn Williams, general manager of Blue Cross India, people still continue to use plastic bags in spite of the government’s ban on it. He says that if people are not willing to change, such incidents are bound to happen. There is no grazing land or agricultural land, also no forest land for these animals. They inevitably graze in unoccupied lands, where a large amount of plastic is dumped. Also few cattle owners focus more on the quantity of milk they can draw from an animal than on its diet. Chennai civic corporation and other law enforcement authorities should act closely to build a safe environment for these animals.