Proponents of ayurveda, a holistic healing system developed thousands of years ago in India, say the urine, or “gomutra,” of an Indian cow contains special therapeutic properties and health benefits. Traces of gold are found in the urine of cows from the local Gir breed, scientists at Junagadh Agricultural University, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, concluded in June after analyzing 400 specimens.Inter-Faith Conflict
In cow-worshiping India, the increased protection and reverence given to the hump-backed, droopy-eared creatures have become a source of inter-faith conflict, given its conservative Hindu agenda. Two Muslim men were forced to eat dung by a cow protection group as punishment for allegedly transporting beef in the northern state of Haryana in June — one of the latest cases of beef vigilantism that turned deadly on at least three occasions last year.
To prevent unproductive cows being sent to the abattoir, the government started the so-called Rashtriya Gokul Mission in mid-2014, a national program that entails, among other things, constructing havens for retired, ailing and barren bovines. Proceeds from the animals’ bodily waste are intended to pay for their board and keep.
Modi’s government in May held an inaugural national conference on cow shelters, or “gaushalas” in Hindi, where two members of his cabinet encouraged thousands of attendees to monetize less savory bovine byproducts. The state of Rajasthan has gone further, creating a ministry of cow affairs to advocate for an animal, which some critics say, has more rights than the country’s 2 million homeless citizens.
It’s also possible that the liquid harbors potentially dangerous pathogens.
India-trained veterinarian Navneet Dhand, who is an associate professor in veterinary biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Sydney, points to three diseases prevalent in India that could potentially be transmitted to people in the raw urine of infected cows: leptospirosis, which can cause meningitis and liver failure; arthritis-causing brucellosis; and Q-fever, which can cause pneumonia and chronic inflammation of the heart.
That’s not dissuading Jain’s Cow Urine Therapy Health Clinic, which buys 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons) of cow urine a month from a dozen gaushalas. Virendar Kumar Jain, who founded the 15-doctor practice in the central Indian city of Indore, said his center has administered urine-derived medicines to 1.2 million patients over the past two decades for ailments from cancer to endocrine disorders, such as diabetes.
His staff field inquiries from 4,000 online patients daily, Jain said. Consumers can also buy the products via e-commerce websites, such as Amazon. He estimates cow attendants can make 1,200 rupees a month from the sale of a cow’s liquid waste, which can easily pay for the beast’s upkeep.
Urine distillate sells for about 80-to-100 rupees ($1.20-$1.50) a liter, says Balkrishna of Patanjali.
Still, the value of cow urine is not a great incentive for keeping unproductive cows until their dying day, said Pankaj Navani, a former engineer whose 300-cow Binsar Farms produces 2,200 liters of milk a day. The lifespan of a cow is about 15 years, though most stop producing milk years earlier.
Navani’s herd, which was established in 2012, is still relatively young and he’s yet to face the challenge of what to do with his former milkers, he said. “A more logical policy approach is required to deal with the issue in general,” Navani said.