Hundreds of Hindus protested outside the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) on Wednesday after its vets euthanised a sick cow at a temple as devotees prayed.
Gangotri, a 13-year-old Belgian blue-jersey cross, was put down by lethal injection on December 13 at Bhaktivedanta Manor, home to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) movement in Britain.
The Hertforshire manor on the outskirts of London also houses a temple where devotees were praying when RSPCA vets, escorted by the police entered the premises and killed the cow. The temple is famous for its annual Jasnmashthami festival, which is attended by tens of thousands of Asians.
Temple spokesman Vinay Tanna said, "We are holding a peaceful prayer protest at the way Gangotri was killed. The RSPCA made the equivalent of a citizen's arrest, they went in and made the decision to kill the cow immediately. Given the chance we would have taken legal action to try to stop it."
Hundreds of devotees from Bhaktivedanta Manor had gathered at the RSPCA headquarters in Southwater, West Sussex, for the Boxing Day protest, a temple spokesman said.
Simultaneously, other devotees offered prayers at the temple.
Sruti Dharma, a priest said, "In Hinduism, it's traditional that mourning extends for 13 days, with a ceremony held at the conclusion of that period. Boxing Day is 13 days after she was killed."
Madhava Das, a priest from another temple added: "None of us had the chance to perform the traditional ceremonies at the time. The RSPCA came without warning and simply ended her life while the monks were at prayer. At least, this observance will help to bring this period to a conclusion."
This case is different from the one surrounding another cow, Shambo, which was put down in July in the province of Wales after contracting tuberculosis, an infectious disease, Gangotri was in great pain but had no disease.
Gangotri, who was unable to stand after an accident, was being cared for under the manor's Cow Protection Project, which allows old cows and bulls to die naturally.
In a statement the RSPCA said, "We knew the cow has been suffering from painful and infected sores, her limbs had become wasted and her breathing difficult."
"Three separate vets, including from the Royal College of Vets, from Defra and an independent vet, have all agreed that the animal was suffering and should be immediately euthanised."
But temple authorities accuse the RSPCA of sneaky behaviour.
Gauri Das, head of Bhaktivedanta Manor, said the police bundled away monks attending to the sick cow and alleged that the head farmer was kept talking to while a lethal injection was administered to Gangotri inside the barn.
"The community's Christmas has been overshadowed by this terrible event," said Gauri Das.
"It was a tragedy for thousands of our members, and especially the children."