Animals In Print
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20 Nov 2009 Issue

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Women Unite Against The Violence of the Accepted Practice Of Killing Bulls for Proving Manhood, Capetown

A handful of women in Cape Town are working alongside Australian campaigner Natalie Houghton and Carole de Fraga of Compassion in World Farming in Australia towards ending the practise known as Ukweshwama, which occurs annually during the First Fruits Festival in Kwazulu Natal, scheduled this year for early December.

The rite of passage pertains to the killing of a bull by a group of young Zulu men, who slaughter the animal with their bare hands as part of the ritual festivities. Typically, this entails gouging out the animal’s eyes, tearing out the tongue, ripping off the tail, tying the testicles into a knot and pushing sand and mud down the throat. The bull eventually expires after some 40 minutes.

Bull Slaughter - South Africa

Bull Slaughter - South Africa

Many animal welfare organisations-- as well as ordinary South Africans – are calling for an end to this cruel practice, particularly in light of the negative international publicity it is already attracting ahead of next year’s World Cup Soccer event. The KZN Department of Agriculture, however, refuses to intervene, claiming that this ritual forms part of Zulu culture, despite the fact that it clearly contravenes the Animal Protection Act. (See links below for further information).

Quoting Mr. Keith Ramsay, Acting Director: Animal Production for the KZN Department of Agriculture, “This is a cultural ceremony and therefore falls under section 31 of the Constitution that enshrines the right of very human being to practice his/her religion, culture and language. It must be noted that no other law can supersede the Constitution, which is supreme”. However, the Constitution cannot condone an activity that contravenes an existing law - Rastafarians’ use of dagga is still illegal, despite it forming an important part of their religion. Nor can the Constitution be used as a shield behind which acts of torture can hide. Just as individual rights are limited by existing laws, so are group rights.

Culture cannot condone cruelty and, if it does, we are a mere step away from allowing Sharia law - which condones, for instance, the murdering of adulterers by stoning – to be practiced in South Africa.

QUOTE The killing of the bull is a show of male force, clearly linking masculinity and rites of passage into manhood with violence. Activities such as these only enforce the stereotype of men as violent, and will inevitably lead to more violence against the vulnerable, including women and children. "In the ritual, a group of young men torture and kill a bull with their bare hands, pulling the terrified and struggling animal to the ground, ripping out his tongue, shoving handfuls of dirt into his mouth, tearing out his eyes, mutilating his genitals and engaging in other cruel acts until the bull is finally dead," the former politician wrote. "

Encouraging men to define themselves and their role in society through violence can only perpetuate such violence

KZN has the highest rape statistics in the country and South Africa has the dubious distinction of having amongst the highest rates of violent crime in the world.

Throughout history, women have played a powerful role in changing a prejudiced society into one that is more equal and compassionate. From the Suffragettes to the women whose actions contributed towards the demise of apartheid, it is time for women to unite to end this horrific ritual.

With only weeks remaining before the next Killing of the Bull ceremony, concerned parties are invited to contact the following individuals at the email addresses below:

• The Minister of Agriculture: [email protected]  OR [email protected] 
• The Minister of Arts and Culture: [email protected] 
• Mr Ramsay of the KZN Department of Agriculture [email protected]
[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]

Lack of action equals the death of change

• Elisa Galgut, Doctor of Philosophy: [email protected] 
• Fransje van Riel: Award nominated author and journalist [email protected] . Cell: 082 567 3545
• Nikki Botha: Global Animal Rights Activist [email protected] .

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Please send comments and submittals to the Editor: Linda Beane [email protected]

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