Joan Smith: I’m sorry, but Shambo gets my bullet
Sacred cows? Bring them on. Demolishing ridiculous ideas is a columnist’s job, even if the beasts in question are usually metaphorical. As a rule, the only culling I advocate is of sloppy thinking, which is why I’m taking this opportunity to warn readers of a nervous disposition about my views on Shambo, the black Friesian bull that has become the subject of a ferocious row between the Welsh Assembly and a Hindu temple.
This seems to have been an example of hysterical Hinduism. Judging from the TV pictures, most of the ‘monks’ at the Welsh temple are white British people – converts. They seem like so many others I’ve come across, who adopt Eastern religions for a variety of reasons, often trying several in search of an elusive ‘something’ they can’t quite explain. A Mr Jay Lakhani, who writes books about Hinduism for schools, says they’re wrong to defend Shambo from the officials of the Welsh Assembly. He said,
If the life of one animal may endanger other lives or human lives as well, then we must take into account the greater good and sacrifice the individual good.
Religious people who adopt this ‘harm nothing’ stance tend to tie themselves in knots trying to justify it. I heard an Englishman who converted to Jainism explaining that they avoid killing any living creature. So, I asked, if your cat had fleas, does that mean you wouldn’t do anything to treat it? Yes, he said, if I had a cat, which I don’t. But, I said, what about the cat? It would suffer from flea bites that can cause infection and even death. Someone changed the subject before he had a chance to answer, if he had an answer. Maybe not having a cat excused him from having to find one.
Anyhow, quite apart from all these inconsistencies in Hindu (and Jain) teaching, I agree with Joan Smith. The Welsh Hindus should not have expected special dispensation to keep Shambo – one rule for them, another for everyone else – especially as the poor creature was being cruelly confined in a small space, unable to live a natural life, and condemned to suffer from the progressive symptoms of TB – not to mention all that chanting.