On the sanctity of the cow: the heart has its reasons

Updated - September 12, 2016 07:55 pm IST

Published - May 22, 2016 05:00 pm IST

Many untenable properties are bestowed by the people on the cow, which science can only refute. Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

Many untenable properties are bestowed by the people on the cow, which science can only refute. Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

The Vedic People, since 1600 BCE, have bred and used the cow in their homes, community and society. While these ancient Indians were familiar with a large number of animals (horses, cats and tigers, dogs, deer, elephants and even the rhinoceros) the cow has always been held and worshipped in maternal terms ( go-matha ). This sanctity of the cow is respected to this day. She is tame, gentle, gives us our daily milk, and we use even her droppings for a variety of purposes.

These are already enough reasons to admire and adore her; yet some people have tried to thrust several ‘unique’ but, alas, scientifically untenable properties on the cow. My cousin Sundaram had sent me one such set of claims, which are found in the site https://www.iskconbangalore.org/blog/why-should-i-not-kill-cow/. There are a few other sites with similar ‘scientific’ claims. In this column, I wish to point out whey these claims are scientifically untenable.

Here is one such claim. “One cow was regularly fed a particular quantity of a poison every day. After 24 hours, its blood, urine, dung and milk were tested in a lab to check where the poison could be found. In this way, the tests were done not for 1 or 2 days, but continuously for 90 days in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) New Delhi. The researcher did not find any trace of poison in milk, blood, urine or dung of that cow. Then where did this poison fed for 90 days go? The go-matha hid the entire poison in her throat. This is a special quality that no other animal has”.

Comment: Well, my enquiries with some faculty members at the AIIMS suggest that no such experiment was done there at all. The Institute’s Animal Ethics Committee would not have allowed feeding any poison to animals in the first place — and for 90 continuous days!!

Claim 2: “The cow is the only creature that inhales oxygen and also exhales oxygen.”

Comment: Other than plants and mosses that photosynthesise, there is no living being that exhales oxygen. The oxygen that is noted upon exhalation is part of the (unused) oxygen inhaled. The lungs of any animal are not efficient in delivering all oxygen from the inhaled air. Some of this oxygen that was not absorbed is exhaled. As https://www.quora.com/Do-cows-really-exhale-oxygen. points out, this is the reason why mouth-to-mouth resuscitation works.

Claim 3: “Cow milk has the quality of countering poison.”

Comment: Poison is a wide word. What poison? Cyanide? DDT? And what proof do we have? Science will not accept (neither will law) unless proof is given. How do we prove (or disprove) the unprovable?

Claim 4: “Cow urine is the best killer of microbes.”

Comment: That urine (human, cow’s…) can kill bacteria is known. The mechanism is also known; it is the acidity of any animal urea (low pH value around 5), the presence of urea, and ammonium compounds ( vide D. Caye, 1968, Journal of Clinical Investigations, pp. 2374-90) The cow’s urine is no different (paper by A. Ahuja et al.,International Journal of Recent Advances in Pharmaceutical Research, April 2012; 2(2): 84-87).

Claim 5: “We can save from radio-waves by plastering the home floors and area outside the home with cow-dung.”

Comment: “Radio-waves” is a broad term, with no specification of the frequency/wavelength or strength/intensity. Ordinary radio and TV operate very well indeed, whether the house is plastered with cow dung or not, and so do cell phones and wi-fi. Indeed, the trouble with such statements is their very generality.

Claim 6: “If 10 grams of cow-ghee is put in fire (yagnya), 1 ton of oxygen is generated.”

Comment: This claim is totally against the laws of physics. 10 grams simply cannot generate 1,000 kilograms in any manner.

None of the claims made in the above article can be supported by science, bar perhaps one, namely, that cow urine has the ability to kill some microbes, and that too, with some reservation about the uniqueness of the cow in this context. And there is no point or logic in dismissing science, saying “they will prove it some day,” or “they are just against Hindu beliefs.”

Many of us Hindus revere the cow. This sense of reverence is touching, and unique indeed. We are moved in admiration and gratitude to the great help she has offered to mankind through her milk and her ability to produce healthy babies (cows and bulls). The cow has been deified not only as Kamadhenu, but even as the ordinary household variety.

But with claims such as the above, the holy cow loses some of her nobility, and we start thinking of her more in utilitarian terms, which is somewhat demeaning to her. Plus such tall claims, so easily dismissed by science, make it worse. As the French philosopher Blaise Pascal so aptly said: the heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.



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