Monks Pray For Doomed Bull Shambo

Hindu monks at a rural monastery chanted and prayed for a miracle Thursday as veterinary officials planned to slaughter a sacred bull infected with tuberculosis.

The plight of Shambo, a bull at the Skanda Vale monastery in Wales, was captured in real-time drama as the monastery launched an Internet campaign to save his life. A Webcast called “Moo Tube” was tracking the movements of the flower-garlanded bull in his hay-filled shrine.

A veterinary official and two police officers came during the morning to take the bull away, but were met at the monastery’s locked gates by monks who demanded that they show a court warrant. The officials left to obtain the paperwork.

The officials returned in the afternoon with the warrant, but only nailed it to a wall, British Broadcasting Corp. television reported. The officials appeared unwilling to provoke a confrontation with Shambo’s supporters, who had formed a cordon around the temple.

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“They will have to physically desecrate a temple to get him,” said Brother Michael, one of the monks. “He’s locked here and we will be having an act of worship in front of where he is.”

Regulations stipulate that cattle suspected of carrying bovine tuberculosis be slaughtered; the disease can be spread to other cattle, to deer and in rare cases to humans.

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Shambo was given a reprieve last week when a Welsh judge ordered local authorities to reconsider their decision to kill the bull, considered sacred in the Hindu faith. But the Court of Appeal in London reversed that decision Monday, ruling that killing him would be justified to prevent the disease’s spread.

Keith Porteous Wood, director of the National Secular Society, which opposes what it calls excessive religious influence in government affairs, said Shambo’s supporters were “putting religious dogma before the welfare of the community. . .. This case represents another example of religious bodies trying to put themselves above the law.”

The monastery said it could keep Shambo isolated to prevent the TB spreading. Brother Michael also said a charity in India had offered to take Shambo, but that authorities had declined permission.

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