‘ARA action isn’t to disrespect Zulus’

2009-12-03 00:00

ANIMAL Rights Africa’s (ARA) court action to try to halt the bare-handed, ritual killing of a bull at the Zulu First Fruits Festival is not about cultural intolerance or disrespect for the Zulu monarchy or Zulu people — it is simply about cruelty to a sentient being.

That’s according to a statement released by the ARA yesterday in which it defends its position to challenge the Ukweshwama ceremony.

The group said it is “heartened” by the decision of Pietermaritzburg high court Judge, Nic van der Reyden, to postpone his decision about whether or not to issue a court order against the ritual until Friday.

It said that while it is hoping for a ruling to save the bull from what it considers a cruel and protracted death, it seems that the judge is giving serious consideration to the cruelty aspects of the killing, said ARA spokesman Steve Smit.

The First Fruits Festival is due to take place at the Royal Kraal in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.

Smit said ARA is encouraged by the support it has received from South Africans, including many Zulus.

“However, we are distressed that our action, taken on behalf of the victim, in this case the innocent bull which 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 homogenised culture that is seemingly ‘off-limits’ to and above public debate.

“In questioning the way Ukweshwama is practised, 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.”

ARA said it is concerned 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.

ARA states that it is increasingly recognised that violence against animals is a precursor to violence against people, especially women and children.

“ARA wishes to re-emphasise 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.”

It said in response to questions as to how ARA will respond if the judge rules against its application, “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”.

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