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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 05:54 GMT 06:54 UK
Slaughter call over 'sacred' bull
Shambo the bull
Shambo's slaughter would 'violate' tradition, say monks at the temple
Senior vets have called for keepers of a "sacred" bull which has tuberculosis (TB) to obey the law and allow it to be slaughtered.

The bull, called Shambo, lives at the Skanda Vale Temple in Llanpumsaint, Carmarthenshire, but tested positive for bovine TB after routine screening.

Nearly 4,000 people have signed an online petition to save Shambo.

But the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) said any risk of the disease spreading was "unacceptable".

Skanda Vale Temple, known as the Community of the Many Names of God, is a multi-denominational monastic centre, which embraces all religious faiths and includes three Hindu shrines.

Monks at the temple have said they plan to form a human chain to prevent the animal being taken away for destruction and some Hindu groups have backed the campaign.

There is a responsibility of the keepers of this animal to comply with the legislation
Graham Brooks, British Cattle Veterinary Association

Veterinary officials are scheduled to slaughter Shambo by 21 May after the monks were given notification on 5 May.

The final decision on the British Friesian bull's fate rests with the Welsh Assembly Government.

An assembly spokeswoman said measures to control TB are in place "to protect both human and animal health " but added that "every effort will be made to deal with this case as sensitively as possible".

Members of the temple said on Thursday they were instructing their lawyers to seek an injunction to stop Shambo's slaughter.

'Risk of transmission'

But the BCVA, which is the cattle specialist division of the British Veterinary Association, said the bull needed to be destroyed.

Its president, Graham Brooks, said: "To achieve effective control those animals testing positive [for TB] must be removed from the cattle population.

"If this is not done, there is a risk of transmission to other cattle and those humans in contact with the animal and its excrement and bedding.

"There is a wider responsibility to ensure this disease does not spread to other species which could create a reservoir of local infection.

Shambo the bull
Shambo is scheduled to be slaughtered by 21 May

"The risks of this happening to the surrounding wildlife and cattle populations are unacceptable."

He added: "There is a responsibility of the keepers of this animal to comply with the legislation surrounding this disease to ensure we achieve adequate control in the national herd."

The monks at the temple have said they regard the bull's life as sacred and as important as that of a human.

Maya Warrier, a lecturer in religious studies at the University of Wales, Lampeter, said reverence of the cow was important in the religious beliefs of many Hindus.

She said: "It goes back a long way to the Aryans in India in about 1500 BC.

"They were a pastoral, cattle-rearing community - the cow had a high economic value and having a lot of cows symbolised prosperity.

"More recently, the god Krishna is one of the most popular gods in contemporary Hinduism and he is also portrayed as a pastoral figure.

"The status of the cow has been a subject of debate throughout Hinduism and some communities eat beef, but it's true to say many Hindus regard cows as sacred."

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