UK: Infected bull to die despite Hindu protest

A sacred bull that tested positive for bovine tuberculosis is to be destroyed despite protests from Hindus around the world.

Shambo, a six-year-old Friesian, is part of a 52-strong herd of cattle and water buffalo at a Hindu temple in West Wales. Barring a last-minute change of mind, he is likely to be put down on Monday.

Jane Davidson, the Welsh Assembly’s new Rural Affairs Minister, said yesterday that the slaughter would be carried out despite threats by Hindus to form a protective human chain.

Hindus believe all creatures living within the precincts of the temple should be regarded as sacred. The sanctity of cattle is a central tenet of the religion.

Since the diagnosis Shambo has been isolated from other cattle in his own barn where he is monitored by a webcam, nicknamed Moo Tube. Last month he was granted a temporary stay of execution while the Welsh Assembly listened to representations.

Even the Foreign and Commonwealth Office became involved amid fears that the decision to have a “holy” animal killed could lead to a crisis in relations with India. However, Welsh farmers, who have lost hundreds of cattle to TB, have insisted that no exception should be made.

This week health officials disclosed that two more animals in the temple’s herd had tested positive for TB and said as many as five more could be infected. In response, monks at the temple vowed to take legal action in an attempt to save Shambo’s life. An online petition protesting at the decision to have the animal culled has attracted 17,381 signatures.

Swami Suryananda, a spokesman for the temple, said: “The Welsh Assembly has chosen to dismiss our constructive proposals to preserve the life of Shambo.

“They have refused to listen to the concerns of the Hindu community, to conduct further tests on Shambo or even consider other treatment options should the disease ever develop in Shambo.”

Ms Davidson said yesterday: “I am acutely aware of the distress that this will cause not only to the community but also to many in the wider Hindu community.

“This is something that I regret deeply but my view is that it is necessary that I take appropriate steps to protect animal and human health in this case. It is not a view I have reached lightly.”

The Welsh Assembly has allowed a further week for representations from both sides.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales welcomed the decision to apply the normal bovine TB policy.

The Hindu Council UK, which initially opposed the decision to slaughter Shambo, said yesterday that it was now time to “let go”.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday June 27, 2007.
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