Gangotri at the Bhaktivedanta Manor
London, Dec. 19: Is it better to put down a cow that is in less than perfect health or prolong its life by lavishing tender care and love on the animal?
Traditional Hindu philosophy inclines towards the second view while the western approach, represented by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), espouses the first.
When the two collide, as has just happened with the putting down of a 13-year-old Blue Jersey cross called Gangotri at a Hindu temple in Hertfordshire, there is an almighty row caused by a huge cultural misunderstanding.
Gangotri could not stand but it was being looked after by devotees at the Bhaktivedanta Manor, the mansion donated to the Hindus by the late George Harrison of The Beatles.
Escorted by police, RSPCA vets came into the Hare Krishna temple grounds and put down Gangotri, much to the fury of the priests who have accused Britains premier animal welfare organisation of underhand tactics and going back on an earlier undertaking that the cow would not be killed without proper authorisation from her owners.
The row recalls another spat in July, caused when Shambo, a bull looked after by Hindu monks in Wales, was put down by the Welsh authorities after the animal had tested positive for TB.
The Hindu priests at Bhaktivedanta Manor have now launched a campaign against the RSPCA which shows no signs of offering an apology.
We did what was best for the animal, an RSPCA spokesperson said.
The organisation, which is funded by public donations, is highly regarded by the British who frequently leave generous sums to the RSPCA in their wills. Last year, the RSPCA earned a staggering £110 million, an indication of the esteem it enjoys among the British.
However, its understanding of the Hindu approach to life probably leaves something to be desired. While the cow was an animal which needed to be put down for its own good, to the worshippers, Gangotri was a living being, that merited all the love and attention, hand feeding and daily rub-down that has been lavished on her for months.
A local Labour MP, Barry Gardiner, who represents Brent North, said immediately after Gangotri was given a lethal injection: At 9am this morning, an outrage was perpetrated against the Hindu community in this country. An RSPCA vet accompanied by three police officers went unannounced to Bhaktivedanta Manor and put down a cow, a sacred cow, which had been nursed by the herdsman at the manor for 14 months.
Gauri Das, the temple president, promised: You can expect protests and lobbying, we will do whatever it takes to be heard. We are all in shock at the moment, we are all too shocked to even be angry.
He also alleged: A charity organisation with no powers came uniformed into our temple and enforced the killing of Gangotri, a loved and cared-for cow with no disease. Her only crime was that she couldnt walk.
It is fair to say that since 9/11 and especially the subsequent terrorist attacks on Londons transport system, the British people as a whole have become much more sensitive to Muslim thinking. Some Hindu groups are now trying to use the killing of Gangotri to promote their own agenda ó and the RSPCA, by failing to explain what it was doing, has handed them valuable ammunition.