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30 Jul, 2009 10:28

Cows in towns – outrageous or acceptable?

Lawmakers are considering a law to limit the number of animals that can be kept in a town. Some say it’s a return to Soviet-style agriculture, others that it will stop people from bringing their herds to town with them.

It’s expected the Russian State Duma will discuss the bill this autumn. So, who will benefit from it?

Zelenokumsk is a town in Southern Russia’s Stavropol region with a population of just over 30,000. Here you can choose to live in an apartment building or in your own house. For many locals, breeding cattle is their additional, and sometimes main, source of income.

Neighbors of one of the farms in the middle of the town are outraged at how animals are treated by the owners. The family keeps 15 cows, but don’t really seem to be taking proper care of them.

“It’s the smell in the first place. It’s a terrible smell. When it’s raining it’s the worst stink, and it never completely goes away,” Olga Dovgaleva, a neighbor said.

“They never milk their cows, and never vaccinate them,” added Nikolay Dovgalev. “Many others living on this street are complaining too.”

However, not all family farms are the same. Dmitry Polevoy keeps more than 100 pigs, but they are well-cared for, so the neighbors never complain.

He spends a few hours a day feeding and grooming his animals. He says the secret of good farming is simple: “All you have to do is work. Don’t be lazy.”

According to government data, the average number of cows on southern Russia’s family farms is 1.7. But there is no limit to how many animals can be kept within in towns and villages.

Deputies in the Stavropol regional Duma propose to introduce nationwide limits. Lawmakers say 10 to 12 animals per farm is enough, and only 1% of farms will be affected.

“We have to put everyone under the same conditions. If you’d like to have a larger cattle farm – you’re welcome to move out of the town and into a field. You can keep as many animals as you want in a field,” said Aleksandr Shiyanov, Stavropol Duma deputy.

Some fear that the measures could harm poorer families in the midst of the economic crisis. However, supporters say the law will help prevent the spread of disease – and keep the air fresher.