Chennai: Doctors remove 52 kg plastic from cow’s stomach

Janardhan Koushik
The unprecedented bulk of the material they found this time inside the stomach of the cow is alarming, said Dr.Balasubramanian

Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Science University (TANUVAS) on Saturday removed 52 kilograms of plastic waste from a cow’s stomach, in a surgery that lasted more than five hours.

The cow was brought from Thirumullaivoyal to TANUVAS in Vepery after its owner, one Munirathnam, found the animal was having problems in passing stool and urine, and had been kicking its belly in pain for some time. The cow's milk yield had dropped significantly, though it had delivered a calf a month ago.

Munirathnam first consulted a local veterinarian, and then brought the cow to TANUVAS.

After running a few tests, taking an X-ray and an ultrasound scan, the doctors confirmed the presence of 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, performed 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 close to two years. The doctors said 75 per cent of the cow's digestive system had plastic.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Dr Balasubramanian said a rumenotomy surgery to remove foreign substance from animals is not new, but it is the bulk of the material that is unprecedented.

“The digestive system of a ruminant is complex. If a foreign substance stays in for a long time, it adheres to the stomach. This will lead to the animal developing air accumulation in the stomach, it may fall, it will start kicking its belly. Surgeons have performed such kind of operations in the past, but 52 kg of waste inside the stomach of an animal is alarming,” he said.

Balasubramanian added that in a private hospital, the surgery would have cost between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000. "Here, 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. This is a huge amount for any person whose livelihood depends on these animals," he said.

According to Dawn Williams, general manager of Blue Cross India, people continue to use plastic bags despite the government’s ban on it. "If people are not ready to change, such incidents can't be prevented. We do not have grazing land or agricultural land, we do not have forest land, where will these animals go? They automatically graze in unoccupied lands, where a large amount of plastic is dumped. Even some cattle owners here 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 immediately to build a safer environment for animals," he said.