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24 July 2007

Shambo reprieve overturned

A Court of Appeals has upheld the original slaughter order for Shambo, a bull held sacred by a Hindu community in Wales. I know that a lot of people are happy about this ruling, including my most faithful comment poster, DH. And every farmer in Wales, apparently, who were feeling really hard done by. I just have to say that I don't see how anyone could have lived through the Stygian nightmare that was the foot-and-mouth crisis, and seen those hideous piles of burning cows and sheep, and seen the very real grieving tears of the farmers forced to see "in the flesh" and all at once the slaughter of the animals they cared for, and not understand what this case is really about. Ask yourself why it is raising such curious levels of passion for people who aren't Hindus or vegetarians, on the one hand, nor farmers, nor atheists, nor bloodthirsty animal-haters, on the second, third and fourth hands. (Take my husband for example: he called it "obscene" and said it "made him sick".) (See what I did there with the third and fourth hands? A little subversive Hindu humour.)
I submit to you that a cattle farmer has got to harden his heart to the suffering of animals, to a great degree, to do the job he does. And an eater of meat similarly has to be in denial about what goes on, or brazenly proclaim a lack of feeling, as many do. And yet they remain good men (or women as the case may be). When I saw farmers grief-stricken on TV over the slaughter of their herds, it was not just about the money, or their "way of life", it was an awakened compassion for the animals themselves. I must therefore make my position clear: I do not think that religion is some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card for unpleasant laws. I think this law is one example of a law that was made without consideration of compassion, of what Shakespeare's Portia called "the quality of mercy that is not strained" and it needs refining. Some day, we will all be refined and there will be no herds of cattle that live only for the slaughter, but in the meantime, we do not have to be monsters, or Terminators with no off-switch.

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