Sangh Samachar

A lot of bull to save a bull!

Posted in Hindu Forum of Britain, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by ravi on May 10, 2007

Shambo, a sacred bull in Wales (Britain) is making news these days. It’s heartening to see a black animal being the object of so much love, for similarly pigmented humans typically belong to the lower castes in India and are the object of much upper-caste scorn. Not that black people elsewhere are treated much better.


Getting back to Shambo, this beautiful bull has tested positive for tuberculosis, and the standard practice in Wales is to slaughter any animal suspected of carrying bovine TB. Slaughtering infected animals is probably the best way to prevent epidemics in factory farms, but animals in a domestic setting can easily be kept in isolation, so why resort to slaughter when one of them gets infected with a communicable disease? Is the callousness of a beef-eating culture to blame? A little research threw up interesting nuggets of information.

According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture:

Bovine TB, caused by M. bovis, can be transmitted from livestock to humans and other animals. No other TB organism has as great a host range as bovine TB, which can infect all warmblooded vertebrates.

Recent research has suggested that bovine TB might spread between humans. According to Reuters:

British investigators describe 20 cases of humans being infected with Mycobacterium bovis, a type of tuberculosis normally confined to cattle. In six instances, the outbreak appears to have resulted from person-to-person transmission.

Shambo apparently is looking healthy, but acccording to the USDA:

Bovine TB is a chronic disease, seldom becoming apparent until it has reached an advanced stage in cattle, captive cervids, and swine. Some infected livestock seem to be in prime condition, showing no evidence of infection until they are slaughtered, yet they may be found so seriously infected during slaughter inspection that their carcasses must be condemned.

The Skanda Vela temple says that Shambo has been isolated from other bovines and from contact with the public, but the risk of transmission still seems significant. According to the USDA:

Bovine TB can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. Although young animals and humans can contract the disease by drinking raw milk from infected dams, the most common means of transmission is through respiration. Invisible droplets (aerosols) containing TB bacteria may be exhaled or coughed out by infected animals and then inhaled by susceptible animals or humans. The risk of exposure is greatest in enclosed areas, such as barns. Inhalation of aerosols is the most common route of infection for farm and ranch workers and veterinarians who work with diseased livestock.

Perhaps realizing that science cannot (or, can it?) be deployed to make a winning case for Shambo, the temple has resorted to mythmaking:

If we were to permit DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to kill Shambo it would be an appalling desecration of life, the sanctity of our Temples and Hinduism as a whole.

And Ramesh Kallidai of the Hindu Forum of Britain has jumped in with more bull.

  • Telegraph: To have a sacred bull slaughtered strikes at the very core of our beliefs.
  • Guardian: To have a sacred bull from the temple slaughtered is completely unthinkable for us and is a matter of grave concern.
  • BBC: Killing Shambo will violate our faith, tradition and desecrate our temple. It goes against all accepted norms of our faith.

Slaughter of cows/bulls is sanctioned in the Hindu religious texts (including the Vedas). For instance, in the Rgveda, Indra states:

Fifteen in number, then, for me a score of bullocks they prepare, And I devour the fat thereof: they fill my belly full with food. Supreme is Indra over all.
[10-086.14, p466 of the English translation of the Rgveda by Ralph Thomas Hotchkin Griffith]

Elsewhere in the Rgveda, there’s mention of Indra feasting on a vigorous bullock after battle (10-027.2). In The myth of the holy cow, historian DN Jha has convincingly argued against the historical sanctity of the cow/bull in India. The book was banned in India (and probably still is), I’ll post some excerpts shortly.

[Note added on May 15: Here’s some more bull, this time from Swami Nirliptananda, Secretary of the London Sevashram Sangha and a member of the Hindu Forum of Britain’s Spiritual Body Commission. As if the human caste system isn’t bad enough, this sick guy wants to replicate it amongst animals!

In the case of Shambo, the Hindus are looking at the difficult but humane way of solving the problem. They are looking at ways and means to protect the sacred bull which can not simply be equated with all other bulls as some are doing. Even among human beings, saintly people occupy a different status from others.

The case of Shambo must be examined differently. It is not an animal that roams about like others, neither can it be generalised with other bulls. It has a special status – a bull in the temple that affords to visitors the honour of being blessed merely by looking at it (darshan)]

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  1. […] A brief respite from the Hindu forum of Britain (and its allies’) nonsensical comments on the sacred bull. Jay Lakhani is listed as the Director for Education of Hindu council UK, espouses a Sanghi […]

  2. […] you have read this far, you might also be interested in A lot of bull to save a bull!, The Myth of the Holy Cow, and The myth of the rapacious […]

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