India Discourages Citizens from Using Cow Feces to ‘Protect’ Against Coronavirus

In this picture taken on November 17, 2020 people take part in "Gorehabba" festival at Gumatapura village on the border of India's Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states. - Laughing and cheering as they scoop up handfuls of cow dung to roll into balls, men and boys from a small village …
Padmanabha Rao/AFP via Getty Images

Various Indian officials and politicians on Wednesday responded to a viral video of a most unpleasant “alternative therapy” by warning that people should not slather themselves in cow dung to ward off the Wuhan coronavirus.

The video from Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam, a school run by Hindu monks which happens to be located across the street from a pharmaceutical company called Zydus Cadila that is working on a coronavirus vaccine, shows believers smearing liquified cow dung and urine over themselves to boost their immune systems. Participants in the ritual occupy themselves by hugging sacred cows and doing yoga while they wait for the mixture to dry, then wash the dung off with milk or buttermilk.

Warning – the video below shows people doing what the paragraph above describes:

“Even doctors come here. Their belief is that this therapy improves their immunity,” claimed ritual participant Gautam Manilal Borisa, himself an associate manager at a pharmaceutical company. Borisa believes the cow dung treatment helped him recover from a coronavirus infection.

Another popular video shows Indian lawmaker Surendra Singh, a controversial member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party, claiming he immunized himself against the coronavirus by drinking “cow urine with a glass of cold water.” Mercifully, the glass of cold water he drinks is much larger than the cup of cow urine.

India’s medical community struggled against belief in alternative therapies and traditional cures, such as herbal medicine, since the early days of the pandemic. Cow dung and urine have been advocated by traditional medicine practitioners as a coronavirus treatment since early 2020.

“There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine boosts immunity against Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus]. People should also understand that using excreta of cows is bound to increase the chance of some zoonotic or infectious disease spreading,” Indian Medical Association (IMA) chief Dr. JA Jayalal warned on Wednesday.

“Should we cry or laugh over this?” opposition party leader Akhilesh Yadav asked.

Opposition politicians have criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi for pandering to Hindu nationalism by endorsing pseudoscientific beliefs, but he also explicitly warned his party leadership to behave responsibly, avoid “fringe group” remedies like cow urine, and rely on coronavirus advice from the Health Ministry. 

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) on Wednesday said the Indian coronavirus variant has now been detected in 49 countries. W.H.O. classified this strain of the virus as a matter of global “concern” on Monday. India now accounts for half of all new coronavirus infections reported worldwide, and about 30 percent of all fatalities.

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