With the South African election results now finalised, many of us are asking, so what’s changed? Yes the African National Congress lost a few parliamentary seats, but what has changed? SOUTH AFRICA IS STILL A COMPLEX, MULTI-CULTURAL NATION.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu sums it up by calling South Africa the RAINBOW NATION. This symbolises the “extraordinary diversity of races, tribes, creeds, languages and landscape” of modern South Arica”. When it comes to animal rights, how does this multi-cultural society bridge its differences? Sadly, I don’t have the answer. Criticism of cultural practices in South Africa is considered to be hate speech. Cultural practices that involve killing nonhuman animals are difficult to accept for those of us who believe all creatures are sentient beings. Although I am listing some of these cultural practices, this is not to say that I support other practices that abuse nonhuman animals. For example, Archbishop Tutu also coined the term “National Braai Day” for South Africans. Braai is another term for barbecue where slabs of “meat” are cooked on a fire outdoors. The aim of holding “Braai Day” is to annually celebrate a day (24th September) where South African citizens “are gathered around braai fires with family and friends” (Facebook page dedicated to this cultural practice). By default this practice tends to exclude vegetarians and vegans. My focus, though, is on tribal practices, as mentioned below: – South Africa still has a president who wears the tribal dress of animal skins. – While woman are now allowed to head royal tribal families, traditional inaugural ceremonies involve the use of animal parts/ heads and skins. – Ritual slaughter is practiced in various African traditional ceremonies. These slaughter rituals have led to controversy in South Africa, as many people consider them cruel. I have never witnessed a ritual slaughter but have read an account of someone who has. The animal, usually a bull, is stabbed with a spear that is passed between the tied forelegs and back legs. This spear is then plunged into the stomach in a way that the bull does not die immediately but lies in agony. According to David Welsh the bellowing of the animal is important to communicate with the ancestors. It is interesting that the ritual killing of the bull at Nelson Mandela’s funeral was NOT televised!
– The Bull Killing ritual, to prove manhood, outrages animal rights activists. In this ritual 20 to 40 young men push the bull onto the ground, stab his eyes, pull out his tongue, twist his genitals and then beat the defenceless creature to death.
– Animal and sometimes even illegal human body parts are used in certain muti concoctions (traditional medicine).
– Then we get the Shembe, which is a mixture of Christianity and Zulu culture. The Shembe is one of the biggest traditional religious groups in South Africa with around 5 million members. Leopards are seen as a symbol of pride, beauty and wealth. Leopard skins are viewed as essential attire for church goers. Tristan Dickerson, a conservationist at the Phinda Game , states, “From visiting a few of these (church) gatherings, you realize that it’s not 92 or 100 or 200 (leopard skins). We are talking about thousands of leopard skins”. If this practice continues, Africa’s leopards, already listed as “near threatened” by the International Union Conservation of Nature (IUCN), will become extinct.
However, there is an uplifting story about the Shembe. JUST WATCH THIS SPACE.
– Last but not least, there is still the multi-billion rand corporation, Investec Ltd. SA, that condones the fur industry and has a lease with Erich Fischer Furriers. While probably none of these corporate executives would be seen wearing “animal skins”, it seems they would be more than happy to don an expensive “fur” to improve their perceived status. This is not to say that animal print fabric is not stylish. We only have to look at Nqaba Ngcobo to know that it is.