Hindu monks are to sue the RSPCA in protest over the killing of a sacred cow. A group of monks from Bhaktivedanta Manor Hindu temple, in Hertfordshire, yesterday served legal papers on the animal welfare charity for trespassing when they put down the temple's sacred cow Gangotri on 13 December last year.
Gauri das, temple president at Bhaktivedanta Manor, who marched with five other saffron-robed monks to the RSPCA's West Sussex headquarters, said: "The RSPCA unlawfully trespassed on temple property and unlawfully trespassed on the life of a cow. The cow was under veterinary care and was recovering. There was absolutely no reason for her to be killed.
"The way they carried out this act on the sacred premises of a temple with no dialogue was completely unacceptable." The cow, a Belgian blue-jersey cross, was killed while monks were worshipping, and the temple alleges that the RSPCA used an illegal warrant to enter their property. The charity was in negotiations with the temple for weeks over the slaughter of the 13-year-old animal because it had a broken leg and had bed sores.
John Rolls, RSPCA director of animal welfare promotion, greeted the delegation. He said: "We believe we acted properly, within the law, but clearly they are of a different opinion. I am sorry it has got to this point."
Radha Mohan das, a spokesman for the temple, said the action was "highly offensive" and that the charity had conducted itself in a "high-handed and devious fashion".
The animal welfare charity said the cow needed to be put down for welfare reasons. Three independent vets agreed it was suffering and should be put down. The cow had been ill for a year and was unable to stand because of its injuries, but Mr Mohan das said that the RSPCA's actions were "an insult and a threat to the Hindu community".
He said the heavy-handedness of the RSPCA had been an attempt to stave off a legal battle like that which took place over the killing of Shambo the bull last year.
Shambo, a sacred bull belonging to the Skanda Vale religious community near Carmarthen, Dyfed, tested positive for bovine TB last year and was finally slaughtered in July after much controversy.
Kapil Dudakia, of the Gangotri task force, said the RSPCA had caused great offence to the Hindu community. "The killing of a cow on grounds where we have a temple is the worst act that anyone can have committed to Hindus," he said. "It showed a level of contempt that deserved a challenge."
The RSPCA apologised for any offence caused, and added: "The RSPCA will always seek to respect religious views, but the most important thing is to stop animals suffering. That is what the RSPCA is for, and what the public expects us to do. Nonetheless, the RSPCA is based on a profound respect for animals, something we share with many religious communities. Since the death of Gangotri, we have requested to meet with Hindu bodies and hope to hear from them very soon, to begin progressive dialogue to ensure this situation never arises again."
Last month around 100 protesters gathered outside the House of Commons to to protest against the RSPCA's actions.