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Animal Rights Concerns in South Africa Continue Long After the FIFA World Cup

16 November 2010

NONGOMA, South Africa -- Last year's 2010 FIFA World Cup brought worldwide attention to South Africa when Animal Activists rallied against the extremely cruel Ukweshwama ritual practiced by Zulu tribesmen that takes place as part of a festival that celebrates the first harvest of summer. Animal Rights Africa mounted a legal challenge to the ritual, which involves the bare-handed killing of bulls by a group of tribesmen who torture and kill a bull while causing tremendous, prolonged suffering.

All legal and diplomatic efforts to stop the ritual failed and the brutal ritual killings continue on the basis of a court ruling. A South African judge said that ruling against the ritual would prevent 10 million Zulus from practicing their "culture".

Horrified witnesses reported watching a bellowing, groaning bull endure 40 minutes of being stomped and trampled upon by the group while others wrenched its head around by the horns, pulled its tongue out, stuffed sand in its mouth and tried to tie its penis in a knot.

Critics of the ritual have been accused of being neo-colonialists who want to destroy African culture. Proponents of the Zulu tradition defend it by maintaining that their opponents are misinformed. They say that the bull is killed quickly and without suffering by experienced warriors. Others condemn Animal Rights Africa and its supporters as hypocrites who should oppose "sport" hunting and fishing instead of established cultural traditions.

The arguments for and against the ritual have largely fallen out of the public consciousness but the ritual remains: on 4 December, another bare-handed killing of a bull is scheduled as part of the annual First Fruits Festival in Nongoma, South Africa. Dr. Anteneh Roba, President of the International Fund for Africa and native of Ethiopia, weighs in with his views on the controversial "tradition".

Here are his thoughts on the subject:

The yearly ritualistic killing of a bull in South Africa brings up the age-old and pervasive issue of human mistreatment of nonhuman animals. A problem more acute and widespread in so-called "advanced societies" like the United States, where pigs, chickens, cows, and other factory-farmed animals are herded into confined areas so small they cannot sit, stand, or move, deprived of fresh air and sunlight, destined to die without ever seeing the outside world, than in developing countries like Nepal where hundred of thousands of animals are routinely massacred for religious reasons....

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