Indian Scientists Slam Centre’s Calls for Research Into Cow Dung Benefits
The Narendra Modi government wants Indian scientists to systematically, scientifically investigate the “uniqueness of indigenous Indian cows” and come up with research proposals that aim to evaluate the health benefits of primary products obtained from them, such as urine and dung. The project is supposed to assess how cows can contribute to the manufacture of toothpaste, shampoo and mosquito repellent, and how their products can help fight diabetes and cancer. The scientific community is saying fat chance.
In response to the Feb. 14, 2020 call to action put out by the Indian government’s ministry of science and technology as part of the SUTRA-PIC India funding program, Indian scientists released a statement calling the endeavor unscientific and a naked attempt to solidify the special status of cows in India, that feeds into already-existing confirmation bias.
More than 110 scientists have signed an appeal to the government asking officials to stop fishing for research proposals, imploring them not to waste money investigating “imaginary qualities derived from religious scriptures.” Many Hindu scriptures paint the cow as a sacred symbol of life, a strict adherence to which has led the Modi government to ramp up cow protection policies and repeatedly condone lynchings done based on rumors of beef consumption.
As the government tries to legitimize their cow worship rhetoric, scientists say the ministry’s initial report outlining various health benefits of cow products, especially those believed to cure many modern disorders, defies common sense, “as many of these ailments like cancer, diabetes, blood pressure, hyperlipidemia were not known to writers of these ancient texts.” They also slammed the government for portraying indigenous Indian cows as possessing “special” qualities, for which there is no scientific evidence, they said.
Scientists say many of the benefits of cow products, as listed by the Indian government, such as curd and milk providing diarrhea relief or ghee soothing Eczema symptoms, are quite generic, and can be achieved as easily by several non-cow products. Painting cow products as unique in their properties or their abilities is “flawed” and “will severely undermine the credibility of the Indian scientific establishment,” scientists write.
Related on The Swaddle:
It’s not the first time the Indian government has tried to merge religion with science — In 2017, the Indian government set up a 19-member committee to prove the benefits of panchagavya: a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, curd, ghee and cow milk. As a result, the Indian Institute of Technology said they received 50 proposals from leading institutions wanting to dive into cow research.
“There has been an acceleration in pseudo-science in recent times,” Soumitro Banerjee, an Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) professor, told Quartz. “For science to thrive, people have to not believe things that they are told without evidence. A society must always question. If that doesn’t happen, it is extremely worrisome.”