End bull rite, Zuma urged

2009-11-06 00:00

AN international appeal has been made to President Jacob Zuma to put an end to the torturous death of a bull in the name of tradition.

Maneka Gandhi, a well-known animal rights activist who has served as a minister in four Indian governments, has written a letter on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) Asia to Zuma imploring him to end the bull-killing ritual of ukweshwama during the First Fruits Festival.

In the ritual, a group of young men kill a bull with their bare hands, pulling it to the ground, ripping out its tongue, shoving handfuls of dirt into its mouth, gouging out its eyes, mutilating its genitals and engaging in other violent acts until the bull is dead.

This torture is exempt from animal protection laws on the grounds of “cultural liberty”, said Peta yesterday in a statement.

“While I respect culture, this bull-killing ritual causes extreme suffering to an innocent creature and has no place in the modern world”, wrote Gandhi, a former journalist and the widow of Indian politician Sanjay Gandhi.

“Tradition is not an excuse for cruelty, and many societies have ended or are working to end ‘traditional’ practices — such as slavery, cannibalism, infanticide, female circumcision, foot-binding, bullfighting and fox hunting — that cause animals or humans to suffer,” she adds

In the letter, Gandhi points out that studies reveal a pattern of cruelty to animals among many perpetrators of violent crimes against humans.

“Thousands of studies of criminally violent behaviour have shown that people who are cruel to animals often commit violence against their fellow humans as well.

“Surely, this is not a ‘value’ that you want to instill in the citizens of KwaZulu-Natal.

“Traditions change, and societies must evolve. I urge you not to allow South Africa to be seen as barbaric and retrograde by clinging to the cruel ritual of ukweshwama.”

She quotes Dr Albert Schweitzer as saying, “Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives”.

She adds, “Mahatma Gandhi, who helped initiate the Indian community’s struggle for civil rights in South Africa said, ‘I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man’.

“It saddens all of us to know that your people, who have been innocent sufferers, would inflict such terrible pain on an even more innocent victim,” says Gandhi.

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