The COVID-19 pandemic had doctors battling a war of not only saving lives but also combatting misinformation, half-truths, and dangerous lies which spread as fast as the coronavirus. As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in India, with 22.66 million cases and 246,116 deaths confirmed so far, doctors are now warning against using cow dung to ward off COVID-19, saying there is no scientific proof for its efficacy and that it could spread other diseases, Reuters reports.
Despite their warnings, some Gujarati believers visit cow shelters weekly to coat their bodies in cow dung and urine, hoping it will increase their immunity against the coronavirus or aid their recovery.
This is not the first time something like this has happened; in March 2020, several Hindu activists in India hosted a cow urine-drinking party, as well as some members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party alleging that cow urine and dung can prevent and cure COVID-19, DW reported.
"We have been drinking cow urine for 21 years, we also take a bath in cow dung," Om Prakash, one of the party attendees, explained. We have never felt the need to consume English medicine."
The tradition goes way back: The cow has long been regarded as a sacred symbol of life and the Earth in Hinduism. Hindus have used cow dung to clean their homes and for prayer rituals for generations, claiming it to have medicinal and antiseptic powers.
In this particular ritual, the participants embrace or honor the cows at the shelter as they wait for the dung and urine mixture on their bodies to dry. They also do yoga to increase energy levels, and the mixture is then washed away with milk or buttermilk.
"We see ... even doctors come here. Their belief is that this therapy improves their immunity and they can go and tend to patients with no fear," Gautam Manilal Borisa, an associate manager at a pharmaceuticals company who claims cow dung helped him recover from COVID-19 last year, told Reuters.
Doctors in India, on the other hand, have consistently cautioned against using alternate COVID-19 treatments. "There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against COVID-19, it is based entirely on belief," explained 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."
Doctors also fear that the practice, which involves people meeting in groups, could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus. While some cow shelters state they are restricting the number of participants, other viruses jumping from animals to humans is still a glaring possibility.