Apparently, this ‘sacred’ bull was given a death sentence after testing positive for TB. It is the policy (indeed, obligation) of the Welsh Assembly to minimise risks of the disease spreading. Under the 1981 Animal Health Act or The Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2006, many farmers have had hundreds of animals destroyed as part of bovine TB controls. But a High Court judge in Cardiff has decided that Shambo raises Human Rights issues…
Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights guarantees the right to ‘manifest’ religious beliefs.
The Skanda Vale Community in Llanpumsaint, Carmarthen, is a Hindu community. They term themselves ‘multi-faith’, but their root is most definitely Hindu. David Anderson QC for the Hindu monks argued that Shambo was an animal of ‘considerable religious importance’ and as such a policy devised for farm animals could not be applied to it. He said members of the community believed that slaughtering the six-year-old black Friesian would be ‘a desecration of the temple’ (which is, in fact, a stable).
For the Hindu, and, indeed, all faiths that believe in samsara – the cycle of life and death – all life is sacred. Yet in the Hindu faith, it is the cow, not the bull, which is particularly honoured. The Rig Veda talks much of cattle, but it is the ‘milk-bearing’ herds which are equated with goddesses and the intrinsic notion of maternal provision.
By declaring that a ‘religion’ (undefined) may choose its own idols, decide that any arbitrary something may be ‘of religious importance’, and insist that it a bull is ‘a member of the community’, the judge has opened the floodgates for exemptions from law from anything that defines itself as a ‘religious community’. Public health and the economic wellbeing of the agricultural community are henceforth to take second place to spurious religious beliefs.
So the next time there is an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, Cranmer urges farmers to insist that their animals are ‘part of their community’; that all life is sacred; that their lifestyle has a heritage of millennia, and is founded upon the rhythms of nature and the bounty of Mother Earth; and that wholesale slaughter is a ‘desecration of the temple’, for in that temple dwells the Holy Spirit of God.
And let us see what a judge makes of that.
Yet the judgement on the ‘sacred bull’ came on the same day as that for Lydia Playfoot – a teenage Christian who wears a ring on her finger. She chose to join the ‘Silver Ring Thing’, and is one of a number of students at the Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, who wears a silver ring engraved with a Biblical reference - 1 Thessalonians 4:3f – as a sign of her belief in abstinence from sex until marriage.
Paul Diamond QC claimed that her secondary school was breaching her human rights by preventing her from wearing the ring, while allowing Muslim and Sikh students to wear hijabs, turbans and karas. The school denied these claims, arguing that the purity ring is not an integral part of the Christian faith, and contravenes its uniform policy.
The tin-pot judge in this case needs educating, for nowhere in the Qur’an is there an injunction to wear a hijab, jilbab, or burkah, and neither did Guru Nanak demand that Sikhs wear turbans and karas. These are all cultural manifestations, and constitute personal expressions of faith adherence. If such interpretations are accepted by the school and the judge, it ought to be for Lydia Playfoot to decide how to express her commitment to a moral standard that is wholly in tune with her faith. Once again, it is one rule for minority faiths, but another for Christians. One wonders what the policy of the school would be if a married 16-year-old chose to wear a wedding ring.
But what annoys Cranmer even more is that the two recent cases brought by Muslims in challenge to their schools’ uniform policy were both awarded legal aid. The Playfoots now face a bill for £20,000. Cranmer feels like starting an appeal.