Away in a manger…
This week there has been a tremendous amount of media coverage of the cow-killing at the temple. The story appeared in newspapers, radio, television, and online as far away as Australia. But now its old news.
Its now been just over a week since Gangotri, a cow at our temple, was needlessly killed while the community members were at prayer – and that’s a long, long, time ago in media terms.
But our campaign to make sure it never happens again has only just begun. And before you get tired of hearing about it, I’d like to ask for your help.
If you’re reading this it means that the spiritual side of life is important for you. A sense of compassion is important for you. You may not have made up your mind whether or not the Krishnas are fussing just a little too much about their cow. You might be unsure about the ethics involved, or just what you might have done in the circumstances.
We all love animals. And the donors who give money to the RSPCA love animals. But we feel a line was crossed last week that cannot be hidden away from public, legal and government scrutiny. You don’t have to be a Hindu to be outraged at the RSPCA’s arrogance, just a decent person who feels that some self-important men took a step too far.
So here’s some facts about what happened. And what the richest charity in Britain is saying. Please take a few minutes to read it, then watch the Youtube video; then please sign the online poll at the Hindu Forum of Britain. It will help greatly in our case. And if you can possibly squeeze in a few lines to your local MP to ask her/him to kindly sign the Early Day Motion 576 that will also be a great help.
After Christmas we shall begin the campaign in earnest.
MYTHS AND FACTS
Myth: The cow at the Hare Krishna temple was suffering.
Fact: The cow was unable to walk. She had bedsores due to the extended period of lying down for fourteen months, and had developed a quickened breathing rate as a result. She was being given painkillers. All other bodily functions were normal and she had a good appetite. She had actually stood up three weeks previously. One of our vets noted the improvement. At no point had either of our two vets stated that the pain was intolerable, merely, in the words of the official statement from the government department Defra, the pain was ‘unnecessary.’
Myth: Animals that are suffering should be ‘put to sleep.’
Fact: It is not ‘sleep’ but an undignified death from a lethal injection of heavy liquid barbiturates – a very different state of existence.
Myth: But killing out of mercy is surely a morally acceptable option to alleviate the suffering of an animal. It’s the only compassionate thing to do.
Fact: Compassion does not have to translate into mercy killing. We can respond to the suffering of an animal with care so that we help to prolong life. We have a choice.
Myth: But qualified veterinary surgeons had given their opinion.
Fact: Two veterinary surgeons, one who lived locally and the other a specialist based in Oxford, were regularly supervising the cow’s medical treatment. They were administering medicine themselves, and also guiding the daily care being given by the community members.
It is normal farming practise that once a cow is ‘down,’ or cannot walk, she will be killed by the vet because, within a few weeks, physical complications will arise that most farmers don’t have the time to deal with. As a religious community, we made the choice to care, and those two vets chose to support us.
Two other vets, who were unfamiliar with the way we work with animals, one of whom was merely a passer-by, gave different opinions. At first, the chief vet responsible for animal welfare in the appropriate government department, known as Defra, also gave a recommendation that the cow be killed. When he made a personal visit to the temple however, and saw how the animal was being cared for, he informed us that no further action would be taken.
Myth: The Hare Krishna people are sentimental animal lovers, and they don’t know properly how to care for animals.
Fact: We have been looking after cows for thirty years. All our cows are very well cared for, well fed, and protected from harm.
Myth: The RSPCA is a charity that was specially set up to provide animal welfare and to prevent cruelty. Their decision is final in these matters.
Fact: The RSPCA is an animal welfare charity. That means they receive donations from concerned members of the public, and are supposed to spend that money doing things to prevent cruelty. That’s all. They are not veterinary surgeons, neither are they a government department. They have no statutory powers, but function as an agency to bring cases of animal neglect or cruelty – which is illegal – to the notice of the relevant agencies.
Myth: The RSPCA has the power to enter someone’s premises and either ‘put down’ the pet or farm animal, or to prosecute the owner.
Fact: They have no such ‘powers’. Entering anyone’s premises requires a search warrant – a certificate from a magistrate – that must be delivered by an accompanying police officer. The RSPCA may then bring a private prosecution against the owner of the neglected animal, but they do so under the same laws as you or I may choose to bring a prosecution against someone else.
Myth: The RSPCA is well known for saving the lives of many stray cats, dogs, horses and other animals that are suffering or abandoned.
Fact: It is true that they save animals in situations of cruelty or neglect. This is their public face. What the public may not know is that, on average, the charity ends up killing dogs and other pets a mere five weeks after they ‘save’ them. Indeed, they are now killing many more animals than they ever used to.
Myth: The RSPCA officials negotiated with the Hare Krishna leaders for a full three days before taking the action they did. The temple failed to co-operate with them.
Fact: The RSPCA has no ‘officials.’ Their titles of ‘inspector’ and ‘superintendent,’ and their uniforms, have no more significance than the ranks and uniforms given to members of the Salvation Army. We are not obliged, in any way, to co-operate with them. We are, however, obliged to co-operate with the police who represent the laws of the country. The police did not ask us to kill our cow.
The three days the RSPCA speak of are as follows: On Monday, 10th December, an RSPCA inspector named Mark Mathews came to the Bhaktivedanta Manor looking for Stuart Coyle, our farm manager. Not finding him, he left.
On the morning of Tuesday, 11th December, he came again and interviewed Stuart Coyle ‘under caution,’ prefacing his words with the statement: ‘You’re not obliged to say anything..’ All this preface actually means, of course, is ‘that if I later choose to prosecute you, I now give you notice that I am recording your words which I may later repeat in court’. But it makes the speaker sound like a policeman, and that can be intimidating for some people.
On the afternoon of the same day, Mark Mathews returned with a local policeman. Stuart Coyle took pains to explain how badly killing a cow in a Hindu temple would be regarded throughout the country, and that it was an issue not merely of the destruction of a farm animal, but of the religious understanding of a large community – a section of the British public – which might have extended political repercussions. That evening, Gauri Das, the temple head, managed to have a discussion with a ‘high-ranking’ member of the RSPCA, Timothy Wass. Gauri Das managed to impress upon him the magnitude of the action the RSPCA was contemplating, and insisted that a dialogue take place between them.
The next day, Wednesday 12th December, Tim Wass and two assistants, and two local policemen (invited without the knowledge of Gauri Das) engaged in a 90-minute dialogue, the conclusion of which was that, due to conflicting understandings of compassion and interpretations of Defra’s letter and comments, the matter would be sorted by each party gathering more relevant information, and, if necessary, by taking the matter to court. But both the police and Tim Wass stated clearly as they departed: “You will get some days to think this over.” An application for a warrant was made that very night and by breakfast the following morning, as the community members were at prayer, the cow was killed by lethal injection and the RSPCA drove off leaving a stunned community behind them.
That was the ‘three days of negotiations.’
Myth: But these are exceptional circumstances. This sort of incident doesn’t happen very often with the RSPCA. In general they have a good record.
Fact: Not at all. The charity rescues animals and prevents cruelty, but also has a long history of displaying total disregard for vulnerable farmers and pet owners in the name of compassion. They attract funding by just this sort of high-profile action, and by successful prosecutions of unsuspecting pet owners. It is not just minority Hindus rights at stake here, but people of all religions or none. There is an undercurrent of protest at their mistakes. The sad incident at the Krishna temple is just the latest
By a combination of the 2006 Animal Welfare Act (specifically clause 19 which explains the entering of premises in order to prevent ongoing cruelty), the curiously over zealous nature of the RSPCA in taking life rather than preserving it, and an often too compliant local police force; together with funding from generous animal lovers, the RSPCA has become a danger to any pet-owner.
What their current stance means – and they are trying to increase their powers – is that nobody will be allowed to care for their pets beyond the point of their owner being able to guarantee recovery. Of course, many owners choose to have their pets put down by the local vet, but that is a choice. If reported to the RSPCA you would no longer have that choice.
In their mistaken notion that killing is superior to suffering – and we might be glad, here, that the RSPCA are not bio-ethicists – the RSPCA are transgressing their own stated code which is that all animals be allowed to live a natural life.
Our question to them is: why do you not think that ‘natural life’ also means allowing a pet animal to die a natural death? Is your compassionate concern for someone else’s pet always superior to that of the pet owner, who may simply want the pet to live as long as possible? Which UK charity law has given you the power over life and death?
Watch the Youtube video here
Then please complete the online poll here
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