I never thought the day would come when I would recommend the drinking of milk! But it has and I am recommending the drinking of camel milk. The Foods Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)has, on December 2, 2016 , put camel milk on its list of animal products that can be marketed for human consumption. This decision has come as a result of sustained lobbying by Sahjeevan, the NGO that is working to save camels and pastoral breeders. However, since FSSAI is, after all, ruled by government bureaucracy, they cannot do anything without making major mistakes. So some worthy (read idiot) in the Food Standards Bureau has written that the standard for camel milk has to be 3.0% fat. This is unrealistic, as camels in India are open grazed and their milk has 1.5 - 2.5% fat. FSSAI has been made aware of this discrepancy and has agreed to revise the standards when a study by a credible agency samples fat in camel milk in India.

Drink camel milk for three reasons:

1.  It will save the camels. Camels are in steep decline. In 2012 there were 4 lakh camels – down from 10 lakh in 2008. Now they are less than a lakh. They arefound in the five states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, UP and Bihar. Of these, 80% are found in Rajasthan, largely bred by the Raika community of pastoralists. There are 9 recognised breeds of camels in India, of which 7 are in Rajasthan. There are 2 crore camels in the world – and India is the only country where they are declining, because keeping them has become increasingly unviable for the pastoralists. Their traditional way of life has been attacked by disappearing grazing lands, mechanized farming, parasitic disease. The Raikas also find themselves struggling to survive in the face of active hostility towards their migratory traditions.

In Rajasthan the number of Raika herders have dropped more than 70% from the 1990s. The number of camels has fallen so drastically in the past 30 years that it has prompted the Rajasthan government to declare it as their state animal in 2014, hoping to increase protection for the animal.

With draught requirements being replaced with motorised options, camels are increasingly being illegally sold for meat. Everyday 100 or so are brought out of Rajasthan – even when the law there says that no camels can be taken outside the state – and cut in Mewat /Baghpat/ Meerut, or sent to Bangladesh. If we could drink camel milk then the herders could earn thousands every month and they would have an incentive to keep them.

Camels

2.  Camel milk cannot be extracted in the same cruel fashion as cow and buffalo milk.

The camels are free grazing. They cannot be locked up and their male children sold to the butchers, as they simply won’t give milk. Female camels’ thirteen-month gestation period must conclude in a live birth followed by suckling, else the female camel will stop producing milk. Unlike a dairy cow, which is parted from her calf when it is born and then gives milk for six to nine months, a camel can share her milk with the farmer and her calf for twelve to eighteen months. Therefore, pastoralists will be the main suppliers.

3Camel milk is much better for you than cow or buffalo milk.

It is a superfood for diabetics. With 67 million sufferers, India has the highest population of diabetics in the world. Camel milk contains 52 units of insulin per litre, which is 60% of the average necessary external insulin administration for type 1 diabetics, and helps to regulate blood sugar levels, giving your body the insulin intake it needs in the most natural form. A study conducted on 24 Type 1 Diabetes patients, who consumed camel milk along with standardized exercise and standardized diet concluded that “There was a significant improvement in the microalbuminuria after receiving camel milk for 6 months. A significant reduction in the mean dose of insulin for obtaining glycemic control was achieved.” There is evidence that Camel milk helps with diabetic nephropathy.

Camel milk

One of the major complaints which diabetics have is that their pancreases do not function efficiently to process the sugar into its energy components. Camel milk improves the pancreatic function of the body, thus enabling the proper breaking down and absorption of blood sugar. A study conducted over 3 months compared the effects of camel’s milk and cow’s milk on a group of diabetic and non-diabetic men. The diabetics who were given camel’s milk, showed a decrease in fasting blood sugar levels and in blood glucose after eating. Their average blood sugar levels (HbA1c) were also reduced.

One of the serious complications of Diabetes is delayed wound healing and the consequent high chances of bacterial infections. A study demonstrated that camel whey proteins expedite the healing of diabetic wounds, by enhancing the immune response of wounded tissue cells .

Research has shown that camel milk might be helpful for people with autism, Type 1 diabetes, food allergies, hepatitis B and other autoimmune diseases, according to dietitians at The Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Centre, and in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice. “Studies have shown that the consumption of camel milk increases the bodies' production of antioxidant enzymes thereby lowering oxidative stress within the body.”

Camel’s milk contains A2 beta casein, unlike breed cows like Holstein or Friesian which produce milk that contains A1 beta casein. A1 beta casein is broken down into a peptide called beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7), whichsuppresses the immune system, causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and has been implicated in the development of Type 1 diabetes.

It apparently is also good for autistic children. A study, published in the 2005 edition of the International Journal of Human Development, cited anecdotal evidence of improvements in young autistic patients who switched from cow to camel’s milk. A study by Baba Farid Centre for Special Children (BFCSC), along with National Research Centre on Camel (NRCC) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi alsoclaims that camel milk is beneficial for autistic children. Autism is often accompanied by gut problems, food allergies and food intolerance. Camel milk does not contain beta lactoglobulin, the allergen present in the milk of ruminants.

camel

Nutritionally, camel’s milk is lower in total fat, saturated fat, but equal to cow’s milk in protein. It has ten times more iron and 5 times more vitamin C than cow's milk. One cup of camel milk contains approximately 107 calories and 293 milligrams of calcium (more than any other milk) besides 5.4 grams of proteins. It has a higher amount of magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and copper, Vitamins C, Vitamin A, D, C, B1, B2 & E. Immunity boosting lysozome and lactoferrin (antimicrobial agents) and less fat, whey protein, lactose and zinc. Cholesterol in camel milk is lower than in cow or goat milk. It is considered safe for children allergic to bovine milk. In many countries, camel milk is given to babies suffering from malnutrition.

Is camel milk something new? Camel milk production is more than 18,40,201 tons per year globally, with Somalia making the most. In 2006, in view of its medical value, UN declared camel milk as a superfood.

But camels, because they have not been tampered with genetically and given hormones and antibiotics as cows and buffaloes have been, produce only 4-5 litres a day – as against 40 litres that cows are made to produce. So there is less of it, and it is more expensive. The upside is that it is totally organic, and you do not get deadly poisons in it like oxytocin – which every single litre of cow/buffalo milk has in India and which gives tuberculosis, cancer and other diseases.

Where can you buy camel milk? You can get it from the Bikaner based National Research Centre on Camels.  India's first camel milk microdairy project, was set up in 2016 by LPPS, an NGO working with Raika camel breeders. The Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, based at the LPPS Camel Conservation Centre at Sadri, Rajasthan, produces pasteurised camel milk and cheese products and distributes it to Delhi.

You can order it online from Camelicious, a company in Dubai which has recently launched its range of Camel Milk Products like Camel Milk Powder, Camel Milk Ghee, and Camel Milk Cheese for online sale of camel milk in India. Or you can ask your local supermarket to get it. If there is demand, there will be supply.

Environmentally, camel milk is much better than any other milk. It has supported pastoral communities for centuries. Herders survive solely on milk when taking the camels on long distances to graze in arid environments. It is an alternative to cow dairy farming in dry regions of the world where bovine farming consumes large amounts of water and electricity. In fact, camels contribute to de-desertification, according to UNESCO. Camels, with their ability to go 21 days without drinking water, and produce milk even when feeding on low-quality fodder, are a sustainable option for food security in difficult environments.

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org