A close up picture of Shambo wearing a garland of flowers. Shambo was the sacred temple bull who was the focus of an intense debate about the sanctity of life

Shambo & the sanctity of life

  • Shambo diaries - June 2007
  • A rational and constructive approach at this stage would be to carry out further diagnostic tests to find out if he is indeed infected with bovine TB. There are a range of tests available and we hope that the Welsh Assembly; appreciating the sensitivity of the subject, will engage positively to enable these tests to take place.

    It is important to understand that the animals at Skanda Vale are not farmed. The community is a unique place, because for us the sanctity of life is paramount and fundamental to our way of life and our pilgrims. As a major point of pilgrimage for people of all faiths, the community has a duty to uphold the highest human values and to show by example that all life is sacred.


    Sorry to keep you all waiting, this update is long overdue. Shambo’s story is still travelling far and wide. On Wednesday, New Delhi television came out, and today Shambo was broadcast all over India. He also featured in the Spectator this week and has appeared on some of the more intelligent and informed websites.

    The intention to slaughter Shambo, just in case he has Bovine TB, still remains. Thankfully Jane Davidson, the new minister for sustainability and rural affairs has now been appointed to the National assembly Government for Wales. We now anticipate the minister will acknowledge the aspiration of the Assembly Government to not only reflect but promote Wales as a truly multicultural society.

    A clear indication of the governments commitment to all members of society would be a decision to use her discretion not to slaughter Shambo but to recognise that a simple, systematic and rational solution is available to accurately diagnose and if necessary treat him, thus respecting the sanctity of life and the religious values of Hindus and all those for whom life is sacred.

    Some of the information released by the Welsh Assembly Government suggests that Shambo’s current condition poses a grave risk to public health and that he is suffering with disease. This is not true. There is no evidence that he is infectious and shedding TB bacteria and our vet has confirmed he is in excellent health. It is important that people are informed with accurate not hypothetical information concerning the law, public health and animal welfare issues.

    Probably the most important way to help is for the community to personally lobby the Welsh Assembly and DEFRA to raise awareness of the negative impact a decision to cull Shambo would have on the ethnic Communities and the freedom to practice religion. A solution needs political will and the capacity to think outside the narrow constraints of set policy. There is always room for constructive dialogue and a solution for all parties can be easily reached without the need to kill or compromise animal welfare or public health. A precedent is not set because Shambo is not part of the farming model for which the current legislation was intended.


    Ministry vets have visited Skanda Vale today and yesterday to carry out a routine bTB skin retest of the remainder of our herd of 52 cattle and water buffalo. We took the precautionary measure of recording all the testing on film. Its seems remarkable that a decision on whether or not to kill an animal is based on a vet gauging a fold of skin in millimetres with a calliper on an animal that is often nervous and moving around. Moreover, the result of the test is determined by in effect measuring the difference between two sets of separate measurements with one set being read 72 hours after the other, supposedly with the vet gauging exactly the same fold of skin.

    Some of the cattle were nicked by the vet’s scissors, others scratched the injection site because of obvious irritation, immediately causing noticeable small swellings and cuts in the skin… Sometimes when the animals were nervous and moved or jerked slightly it was not entirely clear if the vet injected once or twice to make sure the injection went in the skin. From a lay person’s perspective we cannot see how a reliable result can be derived from such a procedure.

    Recent support

    We have been tremendously encouraged by the immense support shown by Hindu organisations across the UK, including Hindu Forum Britain, The Hindu Council UK and the World Council of Hindus. All have expressed their grave concern about the proposed slaughter of Shambo to the new minister Jane Davidson. We have also received huge support not only from people living in Wales and the rest of the UK but also from aboard. This has come from people from all walks of life, all religions, races and cultures.

    Our position is that there are accurate diagnostics available which should be used and TB is a treatable condition. Often in situations such as this it takes considerable political courage to make the first step in the right direction. We hope the new minister, coming from a background of championing social justice and equality, will rise to the challenge and actively engage with the Temple, the Hindu Community and all those for whom the value of life cannot be equated in purely economic terms, in order to find a solution which does not involve killing.


    Part of the Temple discourse given today;

    To obey the will of God is one the most difficult things for people to do in the pressure of today’s society but that is why we are doing what we are with Shambo. We have no choice. We can never allow any life entrusted to our care to be killed. He is a member of our family. There is a very simple solution here and that solution is for Jane Davidson, who is the minister in charge of making this decision to realise that Skanda Vale is a place of worship, it is a temple and that Shambo’s life is sacred here.

    We are not a commercial farm. We never kill any animal. No animal leaves here. He was born here, he will die here naturally. If an animal is sick, we never put that animal down. We work with our vets and we are committed to spending as much money and as much time to care for life. We know what caring for life means. We have cattle here who are over twenty years old. We have cows that have not been able to stand up for over a year. We know how to care for them, to turn them over, to treat them like you would a person who is terminally ill.

    We run a hospice eight miles from here, looking after people who are terminally ill. Our job is serving God in life, and the people in government need to realise that that is a world of difference from a commercial farm whose job is to kill to make money. It’s quite a clear difference. There are many advanced tests and diagnostics available for bovine TB, as there are for TB in human beings. Tuberculosis is treatable in animals, it can be treated in elephants, it can be treated in cows, it can be treated in gorillas, it can be treated in any animal. If you can treat it in a human being you can treat it in an animal. There just has to be the will to do this.”

    How can you help us? You can help us by sending an email to Jane Davidson because she’ll be making a decision in the next few days. Express your reasons why Shambo should not be killed. It will be a desecration of life, a desecration of Hinduism and Sanathana Dharma and a desecration of a place of worship. There is no reason at all to take his life.

    Bullocks! The great divide in Welsh Politics now is between those who want to kill the sacred bullock Shambo and those who do not. Caving in to pressure from the Farmers’ unions, the Tories, Plaid and LibDems want Shambo killed. It’s believed he is a carrier of bovine TB. Why is it that the Tories’ answer to every rural problem is to kill animals?

    The new Labour Minister Jane Davidson will decide. She has not committed herself yet. As Shambo lives in a temple, he can easily be isolated from other cattle and the risk of cross infection is minute. In the interests of animal welfare and intelligent politics Jane should save Shambo. Exceptions are always possible. That’s what ministers are for.Paul Flynn MP for Newport South Wales

    Visit Paul Flynn’s blog


    We have received a letter from The Welsh Assembly Govt legal department setting out their reasons why they have rejected our proposals for further tests. We have until friday to make further representations after which time a final decision will be made. It appears that economics and political pressure have once again usurped common sense and pragmatism. This decision should be based on actual risk assessed through testing and observation, not upon a hypothetical fiction that bears no relationship to the empirical evidence.


    Some of you, who have written to Jane Davidson, will have had a reply with a link to “Shambo Frequently asked Questions” on the Welsh government website. (No longer available online). We would like to respond to the Assembly’s FAQ’s on Shambo:

    Congratulations to the Welsh Assembly to finally call Shambo by his name and not just a ‘TB reactor’. We have received tremendous support from all the major Hindu representative organisations across the UK, as well as over 18,000 signatories on our petition. The most recent support has come from the Hindu Cultural Association of Wales (whose membership consists of many members of the medical profession). All these organisations have made strong representations to the minister. Do not desecrate our religion, the sanctity of life and our place of worship.

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