The Shofar is the ancient trumpet which called the people of God to prayer, repentance, sacrifice and war.


Immediate 14.30 hrs Thursday 17th May 2007

Only a novelist with the comic imagination of Anthony Trollope could make it up. Animal Health takes on Multiculturalism in the War of Shambo.

A sacred bull at the Skanda Vale Temple deep in rural Wales is threatened with slaughter by the Welsh Assembly Animal Health Wallahs.

Some 90,000 Hindus a year go to Shambo's shrine at Llanpumpsaint in the heart of Carmarthenshire. They may just be following the herd, but Shambo is divine in their eyes. The trouble is, Shambo has come out positive for a bovine tuberculosis skin test, and even with no other cattle within roaring distance of him, and no certainty that he actually has TB, Assembly animal health officials are in no, er, mood to back down.

'TB in cattle is an infectious disease that has a significant impact on the health and welfare of the national cattle herd,' said a spokesman. 'We fully understand that this can be distressing for the owners. However, measures are in place to protect public and animal health and prevent the further spread of the disease.'

'Distressing' does not, however, quite convey precisely how outraged the Hindus feel about the prospect of the god who is Shambo being dragged off, slaughtered and thrown on a communal funeral pyre.

Hindu Forum of Britain secretary-general Ramesh Kallidai said killing a sacred temple cow or bull was 'highly sacrilegious' to his faith. He said; 'This is completely unthinkable for us and is a matter of grave concern. It strikes at the very core of our beliefs.'

The problem is, slaughtering livestock for any or no reason lies at the very core of the beliefs of the Governments' animal health mandarins. The wanton Foot-and-Mouth slaughter had little to do with animal health and was done solely to protect exports of breeding animals. Defra's, or Deathra's, determination to slaughter the now-famous Harriet the Cow, a family pet, because she had once been in a herd one of whose members later developed BSE, led to a stand-off in a field between villagers and Defra vets. Harriet was put down by the family's vet in March 2007 because of kidney failure.  A post-mortem showed she had never contracted BSE.

So, with Hindus unlikely to take Shambo's slaughter lying down, will the Assembly make policy on the hoof to save him? With the normal speed of action of the animal health stormtroopers, dawn raids and all, foaming at the mouth with stun guns at the ready, charging in like a bull in a china shop to wreak their own brand of injustice, we shouldn't have to wait until the cows come home for the next instalment. But with the prospect of beefy Hindus rampaging through the streets of Cardiff, any contact between Shambo's holy droppings and the Assembly's diversity air-conditioning could leave its unbending animal health officers with more than egg on their faces.