While issuing its verdict in a case related to cow slaughter and advising the government to declare the cow as the national animal, the Allahabad High Court described the animal as the only species that inhales and exhales oxygen. Scientists are now questioning the part of the 12-page judgment where some popular myths about panchagavya (cow products) have been passed off as truths.
The Allahabad High Court had, during the hearing of a bail plea on Wednesday, mentioned panchagavya as a cure for several diseases. The bench of Justice Shekhar Yadav made these observations while rejecting the bail plea of Javed, an accused of cow slaughter.
The court said that cow protection should be made a fundamental right of Hindus. The court said that a cow was useful even when it became old and sick. Among the panchagavya, dung and urine are very useful in farming and making medicines, the court had said. People worship the cow as a mother, the court added. Scientists are not quite concerned about these sections of the verdict or the portions where the single-judge bench said that protecting and promoting the cow was not related to any religion or that the cow was the culture of India and that it was the duty of every citizen living in the country to protect the culture, irrespective of their religion.
Scientists have no objection even to the observation by the court that even some Muslim rulers understood the importance of the cow in the Indian culture. They have but taken exception to the part of the verdict that says panchagavya (five products — milk, ghee, cow urine and cow dung — obtained from a cow) is used in the treatment of many incurable diseases.
Not ready to get dragged into a political debate, an ENT surgeon told Sirf News under the condition of anonymity that the air we breathe in contains nitrogen and oxygen, along with small amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases. It has an oxygen ratio of 21% but the said element or compound is not altogether absent even from the air that is breathed out. “The proportion of oxygen in the exhaled breath decreases to 16%,” the doctor said.
“While exhaling,” the doctor said, “We take in 0.04% carbon dioxide and 79% nitrogen. The proportions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen remain intact.” On the crucial part, the doctor said, “It is not only the cow that takes in and gives off oxygen. We all do.”
Interestingly, in 2017, then-Education and Panchayati Raj Minister of Rajasthan Vasudev Devnani had said the cow was the only animal that inhaled as well as exhaled oxygen. He had said the people needed to understand the scientific importance of the cow.
In 2019, then-Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Rawat had claimed that only the cow released oxygen instead of carbon dioxide.
Sadhvi Pragya Thakur had recently disturbed the community of scientists by claiming that cow urine had “cured” her cancer. Oncologists who had treated her clarified subsequently that they had operated on her to treat her disease.
In the last few years, many research papers have been published, calling the claims of therapeutic uses of panchagavya bogus. When the second wave of coronavirus in the form of the Delta Plus variant hit the country, pictures and videos of people bathing with a mixture of water and cow dung became viral.
Doctors and scientists in India and across the world have repeatedly warned against practising alternative treatments for Covid-19, saying they could lead to a false sense of security and complicate health problems. “There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against Covid-19, it is based entirely on belief,” said Dr JA Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association. “There are also health risks involved in smearing or consuming these products – other diseases can spread from the animal to humans.”
Last year, the union government called for an initiative to research the benefits of panchagavya like cow dung, urine, milk and other byproducts from ‘shuddh desi‘ cows. The programme was spearheaded by the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST). It is the official ministry that leads scientific research. However, few scientists appeared interested.
Several diseases human beings are afflicted with today find no mention anywhere in the Vedic texts, an Arya Samaj acharya told Sirf News. “There is also no concrete evidence that panchagavya cures diseases,” the acharya said, adding that such myths that are passed off as “part of our Hindu culture are ultimately debunked by scientists and that does not create a positive impression about the civilisation we are so proud of”.
The acharya said he did not subscribe to modern medicine without questions, though. “The prestigious medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine had published a theory and then retracted. The paper published in April 2020 was emphatic in saying that face masks were not effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19. No one knows how many people had acquired the disease due to this misinformation.”
The Arya Samaji pointed out claims about ivermectin too, saying, “We were told this drug at least prevented deaths by Covid-19 in 90% of the cases. However, scientists later disowned the claim.”
“Science, or what we know of it, can go wrong,” the acharya said, “but it is better to rely on opinions that have come out of some tests up to a certain point in time rather than opinions that have not ever been established in a laboratory.”