Cows have a very important place in our country and are even worshipped. In general, you may find people killing and mistreating other animals but a cow is either worshipped or her urine is privatised and used to cure various diseases, supposedly.

Government believes that the cow is the holy cure for everything (except a mere Hindu belief), the Indian government wants to change that, and make others believe of how beneficial a cow really is. For that they obviously need logic and science and a bunch of people who have both the expertise. 

So, on February 17, the Indian government called for an initiative inviting research on the benefits of cow dung, urine, milk and all other by-products from “pure indigenous cows”. Called Scientific Utilisation Through Research Augmentation-Prime Products from Indigenous Cows (SUTRA PIC), the event was led by the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST), the official ministry that spearheads scientific research.

Scientists Say Cow Urine & Dung Have Zero Health Benefits

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What they really wanted to do was to have all cow enthusiasts, academics, researchers and startups to come under one roof and prepare a proposal that declares that the cow piss and other by-products have medicinal, nutritional and agricultural benefits, after thorough research of course. The real aim behind this research was manufacturing of cow by-products like toothpaste, mosquito repellent and edibles like milk, butter and ghee, that many believe can cure many ailments including cancer. 

However, there’s just one rational problem. The scientists don’t want to carry out this research and have clearly said ‘NO’ to the government. 

The main reason why the scientists are not too keen to carry forth this research is because they believe that glorifying cow products will undermine the credibility of scientific achievements especially when a lot of research has been carried out in the field of cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure and none of these ailments are mentioned in the ancient texts.  Neither do they have a verified source of cow products actually curing any of these diseases.

Scientists Say Cow Urine & Dung Have Zero Health Benefits

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“If this is an open-ended research programme, why is the focus only on cows? Why not other herbivores such as camels or goats — traditional medicine systems also mention products from other herbivores,” Ayan Banerjee, a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata, told The Telegraph in an interview.

Religiously glorifying an animal and marking its popularity through unverified synopsis around the country is something we shouldn’t do. Yes, the cow is as important as any other animal and we should uphold all of them equally. 

While we’re trying to break cow myths and asking people to leave her urine alone, it looks like people will only understand that in due time when they will stop relying on actual allopathic treatment and start drinking cow urine to cure cancer!

More than 500 scientists have asked the Indian government to withdraw a call for research proposals on the “uniqueness” of indigenous cows and the curative properties of cow urine, dung, and milk, including potential cancer treatments. In an online letter, the researchers say the call is “unscientific” and a misdirection of public money at a time when research in India is already facing a financial crunch.

Cows are considered sacred in Hinduism, and some petitioners see the research program as another effort by the Indian government, run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to validate faith-based pseudoscience. The call does not appear to be shaped by “objective scientific inquiry,” but rather “aimed at confirming existing beliefs,” says Aniket Sule, a reader at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education who helped draft the letter. “They should prove that there is some merit in pursuing this research before throwing money at it,” Sule says.

The call for proposals, issued 14 February, is part of a larger funding program of the Department of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy, and other government agencies. It invites projects on five research themes including: “cowpathy,” the use of cow products for medicine and health, including anticancer and diabetes drugs; the use of cow products for agriculture, such as in pesticides; cow-based products like shampoo, hair oil, and floor cleaners; and research on the nutritional value of cow milk. A major aim is the “scientific investigation of uniqueness of pure Indigenous Indian cows.”

The programme in five categories

The details of the programme available on the website give five broad themes: Under the “Uniqueness of Indigenous Cows”, it said, “The scientific studies performed by a few investigators prove some special characteristics of desi cows, many other properties of these cows need detailed scientific investigations. Studies on metagenomic and proteogenomic analysis of Indian cows need detailed scientific investigations.”

The scheme highlights that “one of the major aims under this theme is the systematic scientific investigation of uniqueness of pure Indigenous Indian cows”.

On the second theme, “Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Medicine and Health”, the programme advocates “cowpathy”, a treatment based on products obtained from indigenous cows as used in Ayurveda.

“Though many ‘vaidyas’ and practitioners are using prime products from indigenous cows for various treatments, there is not much scientific studies and research on the same. Cow urine and its distillate is being used by ayurveda practitioners throughout the country,” it said.

It has called for “research proposals under this theme, which should undertake detailed scientific investigation of chemical profiling, identification of bioactive principle responsible for enhancing activity of antibiotics and anticancer drugs, and other medicinal properties of prime products from indigenous cow from modern perspective”.

The third theme is based on “Prime products from Indigenous Cows for Agricultural Applications”.

“The project proposals to be submitted under this theme should aim to perform scientific investigations of role of prime products from indigenous cows on plant growth, soil health and providing immunity in plant system, their application as organic manure and bio-pesticide in agriculture, among others uses,” said the release on the programme.

Under the fourth category “Prime-products from Indigenous Cows for Food and Nutrition”, the release said the proposals under this theme “should aim to perform scientific research on complete characterization of milk and milk products derived from Indian indigenous cows, scientific research on nutritional and therapeutic properties of curd and ghee prepared from indigenous breeds of cows by traditional methods; development of standards for traditionally processed dairy products of Indian origin cow; and identification of bio/chemical markers to authenticate the quality of ghrita”.

The last category “Prime-products from indigenous cows-based utility items” said, “The proposal under this theme should be framed with aims to standardize effective, economic and eco-friendly preparations of utility products from the prime components of indigenous cows.”

RSS dream project

The RSS’s Gau Sewacell members in 2018 had visited various temples and mutts to spread awareness on the benefits of cow urine and cow dung. It focussed on ‘Rog Mukt Bharat’ (disease-free India) and printed a handbook, ‘Srishti ki Sangrakshak Bharatiya Gai’ (Indian cow – The protector of nature), to give an impetus to its campaign.

Nagpur-based ‘Gau Anusansadan Kendra’ has also been focusing on conducting research work to prove the benefits of cows.

In 2017, senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar claimed that 90% of the world’s population depends on cow milk and that is why it is called the mother of humanity. “Cow keeps poisonous things to itself and gives milk and gobar (cow dung),” he had said.

The new project is in line with the BJP’s parent body’s vision and will be carried on with the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology through various departments and research councils.

In their letter, scientists note that the call presumes “special physiological status to select breeds of only one species,” adding that “to begin a project with such presumptions is prima facie unscientific.” Money under the scheme could be “wasted to ‘investigate’ imaginary qualities derived from religious scriptures,” they said.

It’s not the first time the current government has promoted research on the cow, or more broadly, made scientific claims for unproven traditional beliefs. In 2017, the government set up a committee to vet research proposals to scientifically validate “panchgavya,” a concoction of cow milk, curd, ghee, dung, and urine held by Ayurveda texts to have curative properties. Last year, BJP Member of Parliament Sadhvi Pragya was widely criticised by oncologists when she claimed that cow urine cured her breast cancer.

The latest call comes at a time when government grants are already being delayed, scientists say, with research projects getting stalled and young researchers not receiving their monthly stipends on time. In this context, “actively canvassing proposals under such dubious scheme is even more infuriating,” their letter says.

Sule and others have appealed to the ministry to withdraw the current proposal and reframe it “to encourage open inquiry.” They have also appealed to scientists across the country to use National Science Day on 28 February to educate the general public.