May 21, 2007 / 2:54 PM / 11 years ago

Thousands sign up to save Shambo the sacred bull

LLANPUMSAINT, Wales (Reuters Life!) - Nearly 10,000 people have signed an online petition in support of a Welsh Hindu temple’s campaign to save a sacred bull condemned to die after he tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.

Supporters of the temple near the Welsh town of Carmarthen had planned to form a human chain on Monday to prevent health officials from seizing Shambo the six-year old bull, who authorities say is a potential danger to humans and animals.

But Shambo, whose name means giver of joy, last week won a reprieve after the Welsh Assembly regional government said the slaughter order remained in force but that it was assessing the issues “surrounding this very sensitive case”.

Hundreds of supporters have streamed in to the Skanda Vale temple in a remote corner of west Wales since the tests a few weeks ago, while Shambo remains quarantined in a shed decorated with red and yellow drapes in the main temple dedicated to Hindu deity Lord Muruga.

Ultimately, the temple’s supporters would be willing to defend Shambo’s life with their own, the temple head said.

“We could no more allow the slaughter of Shambo than we could the killing of a human being,” said Swami Suryananda.

He said the temple was considering legal action, although this was a last resort. “We would very much hope that there is a political will to find a solution.”

The policy of the Welsh Government and Britain’s Department for Environment and Rural Affairs is to slaughter cattle which test positive for bovine TB.

“We appreciate that he is sacred to Hindus, but we have a responsibility to stop the spread of bovine TB,” said Daniel Kawczynski, a Member of Parliament and chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Dairy Group.

“There are families whose livelihood depends on their livestock. He has to be culled.”

The Community of the Many Names of God, however, believes in the inherent sanctity of all life. Founded in 1973, it also runs a charitable hospice daycare centre, and none of the hundreds of birds and animals on the sprawling complex, including deer, black swans and an Asian elephant, has ever been killed.

Some locals support the temple’s stand: “It is quite isolated, and if they can treat him and he’s not in pain, I don’t see why they can’t keep him alive at the temple,” said Ruth Parker, who manages a taxi service in Carmarthen, and has seen the number of visitors to the temple jump in recent weeks.

The temple maintains a Shambo blog on its Web site and has installed a "MooTube" webcam in his pen at: (here).

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