Munching contentedly on a carrot and surrounded by besotted admirers, two-year-old Aditi may be one of Britain's luckiest cows. A fortnight ago, she was just another ordinary member of the bovine family, facing a life of servitude on a dairy farm, or worse, heading towards the abattoir.
But this week she is settling down to a new life of luxury in hay-filled pen on a "vegetarian working farm" at a Hindu temple once owned by the late former Beatle George Harrison, where the monks have already dubbed her "the Paris Hilton of Cows".
From now until the day she dies, Aditi will be doted on by devoted Hindu monks who will lavish her with the same love and attention they would a member of their own family, chanting sacred Sanskrit mantras as they milk her by hand. For Aditi is no ordinary cow. To the Hare Krishna community at Watford's Bhaktivedanta Manor temple where she now lives, Aditi is a heartfelt symbol of reconciliation after more than a year of bitter acrimony which pitted Britain's Hindu community against animal welfare officers of the RSPCA. "I think she will have a very comfortable life here," says Radha Mohan Das, a shaven-headed, white-robed member of Bhaktivedanta for more than 15 years. "Aditi's arrival is a cause of great celebration for us after what has been a difficult year of campaigning."
Pregnant with her first calf, the brown and white Meuse Rhine Issel is oblivious to the row that led to her being donated by the RSPCA as an apology for humanely killing a part- paralysed cow on the temple premises in 2007 as the monks prayed. Hindus hold all life to be sacred but revere cows as the symbolic source of all life that should never be killed.
The decision to kill Gangotri, a 13-year-old Friesian blue injured by an overly vigorous mating session, enraged Britain's Hindu community who claim that animal welfare officers and police distracted the monks to make a lethal injection "in secret". The RSPCA denied the allegation and said it had an obligation to end "unnecessary suffering". The temple's vets claimed Gangotri was making a slow recovery but RSPCA inspectors said she needed to be put down immediately.
Hindus threatened to sue the RSPCA and campaigners picketed their headquarters in Wokingham. Hindu leaders said the RSPCA would never have acted so insensitively in a church, synagogue or mosque and said their pleas to negotiate were ignored simply because Hindus are perceived to be less vocal in campaigning for their religious rights. Last month, the RSPCA relented and apologised for the way she was killed and promised a replacement cow as a goodwill gesture.
Harrison bought the building in 1973 with proceeds from his solo album Living in a Material World. Inside the Victorian mock-Tudor mansion, the oak-panelled halls echo with the Sanskrit chanting of praying monks amid the aroma of sandalwood paste, celebrating the arrival of Aditi. "It's not exactly a bad life is it?" says Radha Mohan Das, with a smile.