Commission backs animal slaughter

2011-03-29 14:19

Communities should continue to slaughter animals as a religious and cultural practice, the Commission on the Rights of Culture and Religion said today.

Commission chairperson Wesley Mabuza said the conflict between animal rights activists and traditionalists was brought about through misunderstanding.

“They should listen to each other to understand one another,” he said at the launch of guidelines on African ritual animal slaughter.

The commission researched animal slaughter for ritual ceremonies after the outcry over ANC heavyweight Tony Yengeni’s slaughtering of a bull in a cleansing ceremony following his release from prison.

Animal rights activists objected to the slaughter on the grounds that the practice constituted cruelty to animals.

Mabuza said traditionalists believed the ritual was part of their culture and that objecting to it was an infringement on their rights to freely practise their religion.

The commission recommended that communities continue to slaughter animals for cultural and religious purposes, but that care be taken to consider the rights of other people who might be sensitive to the practice.

It also recommended that municipalities should look at amending by-laws to accommodate communities slaughtering for religious and cultural reasons.

Care should be taken at all times to ensure that the welfare of the animals was considered from transportation to death, it added.

Bushy Shikwambana from the Ekurhuleni environmental health services said the municipality did not have by-laws on slaughtering, but draft by-laws had been formulated.

In terms of the draft by-laws, residents would submit an application to slaughter to the municipality 14 days before the event and slaughtering should be done in an enclosed environment out of the public eye.

The chief operating officer of the SA Local Government Association (Salga) Lance Joel said municipalities had accepted and acknowledged the practice of slaughtering.

“What is needed is for municipalities to review by-laws where the practice is not permitted, and where it does not exist it should be developed to accommodate the practice,” he said.

In African tradition, an animal could be slaughtered to give thanks, to ask for healing, to communicate with God and ancestors for a blessing and good luck, and to ask for rain or protection.

Some traditional healer organisations said they supported the guidelines, as it protected their right to practise their culture.

“It has been in our culture to protect the animal, the slaughtering is done quick so that the animal does not suffer,” said Zondwa Nhlanga from the Traditional Healers Organisation.

However, the chairperson of the Masathongo Shamanic Institute, Nombeko Bikwani, said some of the guidelines were restrictive and needed to be reviewed.

“I cannot seek permission from the municipality every time I have to slaughter,” she said.

She was concerned that municipalities would not be able to monitor all slaughtering as recommended by the commission.

“It will be impossible for them to monitor all slaughtering.”

The commissioned recommended that permission to slaughter should always be obtained from municipalities, and municipalities should monitor that the meat was handled in a hygienic manner.

She said it would also not be possible for the seller of an animal to provide a certificate that the animal was in good health.

Mabuza said the guidelines should be discussed with all interested parties to reach a common understanding.

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