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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Religious Rights And Animal Rights Collide – Again

Although Gangotri was no threat to human health, the protest outside Parliament today must call to mind the protests over the killing of Shambo, where religious beliefs clashed with animal welfare.

Three independent vets agreed that the temple cow Gangotri should be put down. In a letter to the local paper, an RSPCA representative explained that it would have been against the law and veterinary evidence had they allowed the cow to continue to suffer while the case was debated.

The cow’s carers were informed of this and there was no time for the government to intervene or for further debate without illegally prolonging the cow’s life – and suffering.

NSS spokesperson Alistair McBay commented: “Religious rights and animal rights have already collided with the Government granting Muslims and Jews the right to practise their methods of ritual slaughter although the Farm Animal Welfare Council has concluded these methods result in a cruel death. It is no surprise that Hindus see exceptions created in animal welfare regulations for other religious groups and demand equal treatment.”

He drew attention to the attack on the Government earlier this month by the Hindu Forum, whose President Ishwer Tailor wrote to Gordon Brown accusing him of failing Britain's Hindu population: “The impression we get is that those who shout the loudest or cause problems get immediate attention from this Government, while those who work actively to make community cohesion a reality get ignored.”

This protest appears to be an example of them shouting to get attention and demand special privileges outside of the law.

“This further illustrates the danger, as the NSS has been saying for some time, that the Government’s policy of lumping citizens together and appealing to them by religious affiliation, the so called 'faith communities’, is causing more problems than it solves,” said McBay. “As we predicted, it is leading to an unedifying “me too” scramble for attention, with some groups seeing the attention given to others as discriminatory, prejudiced or uneven. The dangers of this are all too obvious."

February 13 2008


Published Wed, 13 Feb 2008