Animal Rights Africa (ARA) is heartened by the decision yesterday of the Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge, Nic van der Reyden, to postpone until this coming Friday 4 December, his decision on whether or not to issue a court order against the bare-handed ritual killing of a bull at the Zulu First Fruits Festival at the Royal Kraal in KwaZulu-Natal this coming Saturday, December 5.
“Whilst we were hoping for a ruling yesterday in favour of the bull being saved from what we consider to be a cruel and protracted death, this indicates to us that the judge is giving serious consideration to the cruelty aspects of the killing as contained in our founding and supporting affidavits”, said ARA spokesperson, Steve Smit.
ARA is extremely encouraged by the overwhelming groundswell of support it has received from South Africans, including many Zulus, who understand the motivation behind our legal action.
However, we are distressed that our action, taken on behalf of the victim, in this case the innocent bull who has moral agency outside of human institutional or cultural arrangements, as well as our call for mercy and compassion, seems to have been misunderstood and deliberately subverted by those who claim to speak on behalf of a so-called homogenized culture that is seemingly “off limits” to, and above public debate. In questioning the way ukweshwama is practiced, the rights view is not anti-culture, not anti-freedom, not anti-human. It is simply pro-justice, maintaining only that the scope of justice be seen to include respect for the rights of animals. As contentious as challenging cultural practices is - one only has to look at how existing cultural practices predispose and expose women to HIV for example -it does not mean that we should not or that we should be intimidated in to not doing it.
“Contrary to claims made by those opposing ARA in this matter, it is not about cultural intolerance, not about an imposition of perceived “western” values, not about disrespect for the Zulu monarchy or Zulu people – it is simply and undeniably about cruelty to a sentient being, and any cultural practice that not only involves cruelty but also contravenes anti-cruelty legislation must be subjected to public scrutiny. Our culture of animal rights demands that we oppose cruelty wherever it occurs. Of great concern to us is the fact that the respondents refused to agree to the event being filmed or monitored for Parliamentary viewing and review. One can only ask why they should be so resistant to allowing the actual process of killing the bull to be preserved on film in parliamentary records” Smit said.
Globally it is increasingly recognised that violence against animals is a precursor to violence against people, especially women and children. It is therefore possible that serious efforts to incorporate humane practices in cultural practices will also help, in the long term, curb violence within communities and society in general.
ARA wishes to reemphasize that there needs to be respect for different communities that co-exist in the same society and where there is a conflict of rights in a multicultural society and a constitutional democracy a court must decide. In response to the many questions by the media as to how ARA will respond if the Judge rules against the application, we remain optimistic that our application will be successful but should this not be the case we will be guided by our legal counsel insofar as the legal options available to us. Whatever the outcome we know we have helped to move the discussion on inclusive justice and the recognition of animal rights.
The simple existence of a practice or belief or habit is not in and of itself a justification for its virtue. Might does not make right and prejudices die hard. We are aware that the animal rights movement – just as the slavery abolitionist movement, the women’s movement and the anti-apartheid movement – is not for the faint-hearted. Whilst this particular event has generated widespread media and public interest, we must emphasize that ARA, as part of the international animal rights movement, is concerned about cruelty to, and exploitation of, animals wherever, however and for whatever reason it occurs. Animal rightists are the voice for the billions of animals worldwide who every year suffer and die at the hand of humans. Culture-based cruelty is just one of the many areas of our concern and action on behalf of animals.