Death of bull ‘not painless’

2009-12-04 00:00

AHEAD of the decision about the bare-handed killing of a bull to be handed down in the high court in Pietermaritzburg today, a veterinarian has said it is impossible to kill a bull by breaking its neck in a quick and painless manoeuvre using only human hands.

The vet was giving his informed opinion about the method of killing a bull by breaking its neck during the ukweshwama ceremony, which is due to take place this weekend. He spoke on condition that his name not be revealed.

The vet said that because of the musculature in a bull’s neck that supports the cerebral spinal column, one would have to bend the bull’s neck back at such an angle that it would cause “excruciating pain” to the animal. “It would be extremely difficult to break the neck of a large live bull.”

The Witness this week quo­ted historian Professor Simon Maphalala as saying that during the ceremony the animal is overpowered by closing its airways and then its neck is broken in a man­oeuvre that causes a quick and painless death.

The vet said a bull which is subjected to the kind of killing which takes place during the festival will be highly stressed.

He said the animal, when surrounded by a group of people who were cornering or attacking it, would initially experience an increase in its blood pressure.

“As it became more terrified, it would experience an increase in adrenaline and would probably be jumping around attempting to free itself.”

The vet said the method of killing an animal in an abattoir consisted of shooting a captive bolt, which he described as “an explosive device”, into its brain through the forehead.

“The animal spasms and becomes immediately unconscious, virtually dead, and is then suspended by its hind leg and has its carotid and jugular vein severed for bleeding.”

While this may sound like a quick death, the transport of the animal to the abattoir may be where cruelty is inflicted.

According to the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Department website, transporting the animal can lead to “stress to the animal, which could lead to loss in production, and/or sickness, and even death”.

The website admits that the stress associated with transport can cause animals to become ill and adds that injury to animals is “a major source of concern”, but not for compassionate reasons.

Rather, it is “because the public image of the meat industry is adversely affected by media reports of animal maltreatment”.

Also, it adds, “the producer suffers major losses due to injury, and bruising”.

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