Oxytocin is a hormone release from anterior pituitary gland in animals as well as in human beings. This hormone is a protein in nature. It transport through blood from the site of release to the site of action. Physiologically this hormone is important for milking. It causes contraction of smooth muscle cells surrounding the milk producing cells. These cells are called as alveoli and also helpful in birth. They causes contraction of smooth muscles of uterus to expel the fetus outside the body of the mother.
Misuse of oxytocin by farmers
In Pakistan, unfortunately farmers are using oxytocin blindly specially by farmers living in villages. They use for milking by their animals without knowing its harmful effects on their animals. Farmers are using oxytocin injection before milking almost twice a day in cattle and buffaloes for this purpose.
The purpose of using oxytocin injection in animals is to get more milk. Hence, to get more profit after selling more milk to people. But farmers don’t know its harmful effects on animals. The farmers are using oxytocin without the veterinarian’s advice. The purchase of oxytocin does not require any prescription. It is easily available even on a general store of villages.
Livestock farmers are using it widely in dairy industry. Despite there being a ban on its sale, except by a prescription from a registered medical practitioner.
Harmful effects of oxytocin misuse on animals
The use of oxytocin in animals in unethical. Because, the use for milking is painful to animals. The action of hormone causes the uterus of the cattle to contract, causing immense pain.
Oxytocin is banned under Section 12 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960). According to Food and Consumable Substances Adulteration Act and the Drug Control Laws cannot be sold without a prescription from a registered medical practitioner.
The law clearly bans the “introducing (of) any substance into the female organ of a milch animal with the object of drawing off from the animal any secretion of milk.” However, this drug is mostly using on cattle through direct injection.
Not only this drug makes cows barren sooner but also lowers the lifespan of the animal. Thus causing economic loss to the owner in the long run. The frequent use of oxytocin in animals also cause decreased birth rate and other deficiencies. Like low quality of milk produced and animals culled earlier.
Medical experts have pointed out that use of the sustained use of drug can cause hormonal imbalance in animals and harms the reproductive system of animals, reducing their lifespan. Oxytocin use for milk let down also increases the chances of mastitis (locally called as saroo) because sustained use for milk let down may cause damage to milk synthesizing cells.
Humans are at risk
There are many adverse effects on humans due to consumption of milk obtained from animals subjected to oxytocin injections:
Medical experts have pointed out that use of the drug can cause hormonal imbalance in humans. Due to hormonal imbalances created by exogenous source of hormones like oxytocin in milk and dairy products, the age at which girls attain menarche has come down drastically from 16 years of age to 10 years of age. Gynaecomastia (breast enlargement) is diagnosing even in boys due to oxytocin affects.
It is very harmful for humans who unknowingly consuming this artificial hormone. Humans face all the harmful effects of this drug. Children are mostly susceptible to its effects. It is clear to have imbalance hearing and weak eyesight in children due to this.
Common symptoms are exhaustion and loss of energy. Pregnant women should avoid such milk or don’t use milk without proper boiling. The use of such milk by the pregnant women may lead to abortion. And babies may born with deformities and low immunity levels.
Use of such milk also increases the risk of haemorrhage in mothers after birth. Individual women may be hypersensitive to oxytocin and it can inhibit breastfeeding. Oxytocin seriously affects the growth of hormones especially in females because of this young girls attain early puberty.
There are increasing risk of abortion, when pregnant women consume milk immediately after administration of oxytocin to animal. Properly boiling of milk can be useful to avoid its harmful effects.
- Usage in dairy animals for milking should ban. Stringent monitoring policy need to design and implement.
- The drug should not available without the permission of veterinary practitioner. There is immediate need of farmer education about the adverse effects of oxytocin use. Proper training and platform need to provide to livestock extension department.
- Illegal sellers and buyers of oxytocin are need to be strictly accountable.
This article is jointly authored by Ali Hassan, Dr. Mughees Aizaz Alvi, Dr. Imaad Rashid. They are Lecturer at Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.