From an Indian minister claiming that drinking gaumutra (cow urine) cured her cancer, to a politician who says cow milk is yellow because it contains gold, to right-wing Hindu groups who stand by cow products as a cure for coronavirus—a lot of Indians are convinced that cows are the holy cure to everything. However, these claims are rooted more in the Hindu belief that sees cows as sacred, than any form of logic and scientific backing whatsoever. And now, the Indian government wants to change that.
On February 17, the Indian government has called for an initiative inviting research on the benefits of cow dung, urine, milk and all other byproducts from “pure indigenous cows” (that is, not the foreign “aunties”). Called Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows (SUTRA PIC), the event will be led by the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST), the official ministry that spearheads scientific research. They want all cow enthusiasts, academics, researchers and startups to come forward with proposals that look into the medicinal, nutritional and agricultural perks of cow piss, among other products. This is meant to promote the manufacture of cow byproduct-based shampoos, toothpaste, mosquito repellent and edibles like milk, butter and ghee that many believe can cure everything from diabetes to cancer. There’s just one problem: real scientists are calling it out as complete bullshit.
The Indian scientific community has slammed the initiative and are seriously concerned that this will simply be a way for quacks to justify their all-consuming love for cows. More than 110 scientists have signed a statement against this planned proposal, saying it is a means to make the special status of cows more legit. They are urging the government not to waste time, money and effort based on “imaginary qualities derived from religious scriptures.” Additionally, there are concerns that an event like this could encourage cow vigilantes and condone mob lynchings of anyone suspected of eating or selling beef.
In fact, many perks of cow products such as curd and milk for diarrhoea relief, or ghee to control eczema symptoms, can be achieved easily by non-cow products. Scientists now worry that glorifying cow products will undermine the credibility of scientific achievements, especially since many ancient texts do not mention modern disorders including cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
The larger skepticism is, of course, around this initiative. “If this is an open-ended research programme, why is the focus only on cows?” Ayan Banerjee, a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata told The Telegraph. “Why not other herbivores such as camels or goats — traditional medicine systems also mention products from other herbivores.”
Maybe it’s an attempt of the Indian government to milk the cow industry for everything it’s got. Maybe cow poop really does have potential. But let’s just say this is most likely a moot point.
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