LONDON – A sacred bull seized from a Hindu monastery in Wales because he tested positive for tuberculosis has been slaughtered, officials said Friday.
The plight of Shambo the bull had attracted international attention since his diagnosis this spring and prompted an Internet campaign by the Skanda Vale monastery to save him. Hindus revere cattle and said killing the bull would violate their religious rights.
More than 100 devout Hindus and their supporters prayed and chanted outside the bull's paddock throughout Thursday, but animal health officials and police led Shambo from the monastery to a trailer at around 7:30 p.m. A Webcam site, dubbed Moo Tube, which the monastery set up to show the flower-garlanded bull in his paddock, broadcast images of an empty, hay-lined shrine.
"I can confirm he has been put down," said a spokesman for the Welsh Assembly, the regional government. The spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy, did not specify how Shambo was killed.
Swami Suryananda, one of Shambo's caretakers, said officials had "committed the most violent and ignorant act of desecration of our temple and destroyed an innocent life."
"The perpetrators of this act will suffer the consequences of their actions for generations to come," he said.
A veterinary official and police officers had come for Shambo on Thursday morning, but left after monks would not let them past the gates of the remote monastery, about 230 miles west of London. They returned hours later with a warrant, which they posted to the door.
About 20 police officers later entered the temple, wading through a crowd of more than 100 supporters who had gathered in front of the bull's paddock to pray and chant.
They cut a chain securing the gates, dragged away some of the worshippers who refused to leave, and loaded the bull into a trailer.
Police officers flanking the trailer removed their helmets, and some worshippers called out "Bye, Shambo" as the bull was driven away.
Authorities said no one was hurt and there were no arrests.
"It's bad, but I don't blame the police because they were friendly and they did their duty," said one of the protesters, Verena Blum.
Regulations stipulate that cattle suspected of carrying bovine tuberculosis be slaughtered; the disease can be spread to other cattle, to deer and in rare cases to humans.
Hindus took the government to court to prevent Shambo's slaughter. The monastery argued that it could keep Shambo isolated to prevent the TB spreading, or that it could take the bull to India. The monastery said authorities had refused both options.
Last week, a Welsh judge ordered local authorities to reconsider their decision to kill the bull. But the Court of Appeal in London reversed that decision Monday, ruling that killing him would be justified to prevent the disease's spread.
Some people in Britain supported the bull's seizure. Keith Porteous Wood, director of the National Secular Society, claimed Shambo's supporters were "putting religious dogma before the welfare of the community."