The Comparative Constitutional Law of Cows and Milk — India and the United States

Indian Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 7, pp.1-57 (2017)

52 Pages Posted: 17 May 2017 Last revised: 27 May 2017

See all articles by Mathilde Cohen

Mathilde Cohen

University of Connecticut - School of Law

Date Written: February 16, 2016


India is the largest milk producer in the world, and the United States follows closely along, ranked at number three. These two dairy nations appear to have dramatically different constitutional regimes related to cows. The United States Constitution does not mention cows, but the Supreme Court has developed an elaborate case law on milk, a testament to the central place of milk and farm animals in American life, politics, and culture. Yet none of these cases exhibits concern for the welfare or working conditions of cows. It would be hard to imagine, therefore, a more different constitutional framework than that found in India. In the 1949 Constitution, there is an explicit provision addressing agriculture and cattle welfare, declaring, among other things that “[t]he State shall... take steps for prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and other milch and draught cattle.”

This Article makes two contributions. First it argues that despite seemingly opposed constitutional regimes, important similarities can be found in the ways in which India and the Unites States negotiate cows’ status. Both jurisdictions are interested in cows qua milk producers rather than animals whose welfare is of independent value. The focus is on the supposed benefits of dairying for human health and flourishing. Second, it argues that in practice the constitutional predilection for cows and milk has failed to meet its promise to benefit humans. In both countries, milk and cows feature as components of an exclusionary politics used to oppress, reinforcing inequities between racial, social, and religious groups.

Keywords: Milk, India, United States, Comparative Constitutional Law, Global Animal Law, Animal Rights, Race, Religion, Caste, Cows, Inequality

JEL Classification: I10, I30, K10, Q00

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Mathilde, The Comparative Constitutional Law of Cows and Milk — India and the United States (February 16, 2016). Indian Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 7, pp.1-57 (2017), Available at SSRN:

Mathilde Cohen (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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