In life, the gap between theory and practice is often a wide one. One example of this gap can be seen with the treatment of cows in India. According to the 2012 documentary The Plastic Cow, produced by Kunal Vohra of Altair Films, the majority of the population of India (which is 80 percent Hindu) considers the cow to be a sacred animal with a godlike status. However, in practice, the cows there are sometimes treated in a way that would be fit for no self-respecting god. Cows that can no longer be used at small dairies are turned loose in the streets. Forced to forage in garbage dumps for food they end up ingesting large amounts of plastic along for every little bit of real food. After some “street cows” that had been taken to sanctuaries passed away, they were found to have about 50 kg of plastic in their stomachs. It’s expected that this plastic led to their premature deaths.

Why is the fact that cows are consuming plastic in India relevant to the rest of the world? According to the film, plastic makes up the largest amount of waste on the Earth. At some grocery stores, thousands of plastic bags are used every day, and many people have entire drawers of old plastic bags at home. Some stores have tried to discourage plastic bag use by charging customers for bags, but many people are willing to buy them. If not saved for reuse, these bags end up in our garbage dumps, or worse, are just randomly tossed into the streets. While most countries don’t have a large roaming cow population as India does, our animals, even our own outdoor cats and dogs, often end up ingesting this waste.

The reason plastic waste is so prevalent is because, unlike other forms of waste, it takes eons to degrade. To the Earth, it’s like a cold that you just can’t shake. The Plastic Cow offers strategies that could help reduce the problem of plastic, especially in the context of ensuring animals’ safety, though these strategies inevitably demand cooperation from those who use plastic.

To learn more about the plastic problem and proposed solutions, watch The Plastic Cow here:

image: yonajon (Creative Commons BY-NC-SA)