Time is running out for TB reactor bullock Shambo

The Skanda Vale Community of Many Names of God has until 29 June to make a final appeal to save from slaughter a bullock that tested positive for bovine TB.

Jane Davidson, the Welsh assembly’s minister for sustainability and rural development, has told monks at the Hindu community that she is minded to tell officials to go ahead with the statutory destruction of the “sacred” beast.

In a letter to the community’s solicitors dated 25 June she said she had considered extremely carefully whether the rights of the community to manifest their religion under the European Convention on Human Rights should override her duty to protect animal and human health.

“In the light of the veterinary, medical and legal assessments, I am minded to conclude that they should not and the normal policy for controlling bovine TB should be upheld in this case,” the letter said.

“I am acutely aware of the distress that this will cause not only to the community, but also to many in the wider Hindu community.

“This is something that I deeply regret, but my view is that it is necessary that I take appropriate steps to protect animal and human health.

“It is not a view I have reached lightly. We have considered long and hard the case the Community has made, and official met representatives of the Community and members of the wider Hindu community last week.”

But Ms Davidson undertook to listen carefully to any final representations.

The letter rejected the Community’s claim that the six year old bullock could be effectively isolated in specialised facilities and treated with antibiotics, pointing out that none were licensed in the UK for treating TB in cattle.

Ms Davidson also made it clear that she considered the tuberculin skin test to be 99.9% accurate, and reminded the monks that recent tests showed that five more of the Community’s bovines could have been exposed to infection.

Father Alex, a spokesman for Skanda Vale, said the minister’s decision was based on money and politics and not animal welfare.

He again claimed that the bullock should be retested, and insisted that if he was infected it was possible to treat him using antibiotics.

Privately assembly officials anticipate that legal action will commence as soon as a valuer is sent in.

But the Farmers Union of Wales applauded the decision and insisted that a responsible government could not put other animals or people at risk when it could be prevented.