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Only high court can save the bull

A Welsh Hindu group launches a last-ditch bid to save a bull from getting slaughtered, after it contracted bovine TB.

world Updated: Jul 05, 2007 16:02 IST

A Welsh Hindu group has launched a last-ditch legal bid to stave off the slaughter of their sacred bull, which has tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.

After months of protests to save six-year-old Shambo, the temple bull of the Skanda Vale Hindu community in the Welsh town of Llanpumsaint, the regional government ordered his slaughter on Monday because of health concerns.

Cows are sacred to the world's one billion Hindus and Sanjay Mistry, spokesman for the Hindu Forum of Britain, which is backing Skanda Vale, said he hoped the High Court would hear the case by next week.

"Yes, he has tested positive for exposure to TB but there's no sign of him catching TB at the moment and he's in perfect health," Mistry told Reuters.

The Welsh regional government said Shambo may be slaughtered as early as July 10, but that could be delayed until a ruling is handed down, Mistry said.

Jane Davidson, minister for sustainability and rural development in Wales, said she recognised "the strength of feeling" in support of Shambo but that human and animal health took precedent.

"It is necessary to take measures to eliminate, as opposed to reduce or minimise, the risk of transmission of TB from this bullock," she said in a statement.

Since the tuberculosis test results in April, the sensitive nature of Shambo's plight has been evident, with Hindus across Britain and the world expressing concern.

A petition to save the Friesian bull had garnered 18,505 signatures by Tuesday.

The policy of Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is to slaughter any animal that tests positive for the disease, but it decided this particular case should be handled by the Welsh regional government.

If the court challenge fails, the temple has said it may hold a religious festival in front of Shambo's pen. To reach the bull, authorities would have to force their way past monks and nuns, which would be seen as an act of desecration.

"The person next to you is not any more important than you are and you are not any more important than Shambo is," Swami Suryananda said in an address at the temple this week.

"Everybody in the eye of God is equally as important. Only God has the right to give life, only God has the right to take life."

The Welsh regional government's decision on Monday to put down Shambo came as Guru Sri Subramanium, the founder and spiritual head of the Skanda Vale temple, died after six months in the Hindu community's hospice.