Welsh Hindus Fight to Save "Shambo" the Sacred Bull

by Avril Ormsby

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LONDON - A Hindu group in Wales are fighting to save the life of a bull they believe is sacred from slaughter after it tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.

Followers at the Skanda Vale Hindu temple in the western Welsh town of Llanpumsaint, Carmarthen, are considering forming a human chain in an attempt to save Shambo the temple bull from the abattoir, and have launched a petition on their Web site.

Appeals to the Welsh Assembly and Britain's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs have failed, and a notice of intended slaughter has been issued.

The Hindu order at Skanda Vale, the Community of the Many Names of God, said in a statement: "If we were to permit DEFRA to kill Shambo it would be an appalling desecration of life, the sanctity of our temples and Hinduism as a whole.

"We could no more allow the slaughter of Shambo than we could the killing of a human being. Ultimately, we will be willing to defend his life with our own."

Swami Suryananda, a senior monk at the Many Names monastery, said the issue had "galvanised" Hindus.

"Shambo is a healthy animal, and we hope we can find a third way with the assembly and DEFRA to save him," he told Reuters.

The current policy of DEFRA is to slaughter any animal that tests positive for the disease, although it said in this particular case it was an issue for the Welsh Assembly.

A spokeswoman for the assembly said: "We fully understand that this can be distressing for the owners, but these measures are in place to protect public health and animal health and prevent the further spread of the disease."

The Welsh branch of the National Farmers' Union, NFU Cymru, said it had "every sympathy" for the trauma the Hindu religious order must be going through "as many other livestock farmers in the area have already suffered a similar fate".

But it went on to say that "regrettably a holistic approach to the eradication of this disease is essential if we are to stop the spread of TB".

The temple, which has taken legal advice, has argued that vaccination and isolation can prevent the disease from spreading to other cattle and humans. The animal will never enter the food chain, it added.

In the meantime, the community, has constructed a special shrine within its main temple for six-year-old Shambo.

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