Shambo: Sacrificing Hinduism's credibility

The "Save Shambo" saga has done severe damage to the public image of a majestic religion. For an alt

Hinduism places a great deal of emphasis on the idea of reverence for life. The conclusion of esoteric Hinduism is that what religions are seeking for as an invisible being (God) in an invisible plane is actually very visible here and now.

It is God (or spirit) that sparkles as consciousness in the eyes of every living thing. It is God that appears as the universe and it is God that becomes more visible as all living things.

The most transparent manifestation of God is men and women. The way we acknowledge this is by showing reverence for all life. This teaching gives the highest dignity to mankind as it equates men and women to God. This is called spiritual humanism.

This is a marvellous concept but it is still theory. Now comes the difficult part; how to put this idea of reverence for all life in to practice.

Here, Hinduism reveals its maturity by saying that ideas of reverence for all life can and should be put into practice after taking into account the overall situation. There is no simple prescription that fits all situations. Shambo, the bull that tested positive for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) at the Skanda Vale Hindu monastery, would fall into this special situation category.

If the life of this bull could be preserved through any sure-fire quarantine arrangements or by sending it to a bovine hospital that could have isolated and treated the animal, we would see that as a possible resolution.

Though a more sober view may have been to use the same funds to save a larger numbers of cows that needlessly die in India every day. These cows live off dumps and swallow plastic bags that block their digestion system, leaving them to die in great agony.

Hinduism insists that we do not switch off our rational faculties when dealing with religious issues. The rationality of this situation was that there was a clear possibility that the life of this one bull could endanger other lives in the temple complex as well as outside the temple complex.

The temple body responded by saying that the bull was isolated in the temple grounds. But this was hardly a failsafe quarantine arrangement - as we now discover with further animals getting infected!

They also suggested that the bTB test was flawed and that the bull did not have bTB. That too has been shown to be wishful thinking by Shambo’s postmortem. There were further comments that this bull should have been transferred to India. Transferring live animals suspected of bTB across international borders is hardly an option.

Since a strict regiment of culling animals suspected of infectious disease was introduced in the UK, cases of TB in humans have fallen dramatically. All citizens enjoy infection free milk products. This regiment is no doubt very strict because it errs on the side of caution.

If any Hindu body that questioned the severity of culling all infected animals was prepared to fund more research to find remedies for stopping the spread of bTB, they would have our sympathy.

If they were fighting for better treatment of animals bred for human consumption, they would also have our support but that does not appear to be on the agenda of these Hindu bodies. These bodies are only fighting for special privileges for animals at Hindu temples!

The “Save Shambo” campaigners not only failed to save the life of the bull but also undermined the credibility of this majestic religion by offering an over-simplistic interpretation of Hindu faith: All life is sacred hence, killing Shambo is sacrilegious (without any thought for lives of other animals that were being endangered!).

They then made a great deal of fuss about the Welsh Assembly desecrating the temple. The monks could easily have led the bull to the temple boundary and handed it over as the law required. Instead they chose for a bunch of policemen to go stomping on the temple grounds to get the bull.

What should be on the line is not the lives of some poor animals suspected of infectious disease but the credibility of a Hindu Forum leadership who escalated this local issue into an international campaign that has undermined the credibility of Hinduism.

To give you an example, the BBC driver who took me to the studio asked, “Are you people kicking up a fuss because you worship bulls?” It is understandable if the man on the street now thinks that Hinduism is a bull-worshipping religion! The BBC Wales interviewer also said, “Mr Lakhani, we know little about Hinduism and this issue will show it in a distorted light.”

Not only has the image of Hinduism been damaged, but tens of thousands of Hindus who were persuaded by Hindu Forum and the Skanda Vale complex to sign petitions to save the bull will feel let down.

The Hindu Forum has not only managed to dupe Hindus into supporting a misguided campaign but to have duped Home Office ministers and the media into thinking they are fit to represent Hinduism itself.

Jay Lakhani is a Hindu Educationalist promoting Hindu education in schools, colleges and universities in the UK. He runs the Vivekananda Centre London