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Ritual slaughter of bull by former South African lawmaker causes outcry

Ritual slaughter of bull by former South African lawmaker causes outcry

The ritual slaughtering of a bull by a former governing party politician and convicted fraudster to celebrate his release from prison has pitted African traditionalists against animals rights activists.
The South African Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Wednesday that it was investigating allegations of animal cruelty against Tony Yengeni, the former chief whip of the African National Congress.
The issue has been simmering in newspapers and on radio talk shows ever since pictures in weekend papers showed the killing of a bull and a sheep at Yengeni's father's house in Cape Town as part of a ceremony following his release from prison last week. Yengeni was already something of a lightning rod, portrayed by some as proof the ANC was soft on corruption in its ranks.
"Judging by the picture, in our opinion the bull was greatly traumatized and unreasonably restrained," said Allan Perrins, chief executive officer of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.
Perrins said officials were also investigating allegations that the bull's tail was bitten in an effort to make it move and that Yengeni stabbed the animal with a spear before it was killed.
"If that is true, then it is a deliberate act of cruelty," he said.
Yengeni, who served only four months of a five-year sentence for fraud relating to a much-criticized arms deal, has not responded to the allegations. Perrins said SPCA officials have tried unsuccessfully to make contact with Yengeni so the circumstances of the slaughter could be clarified, though they have spoken to his relatives. Attempts by the AP to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.
The issue of slaughtering animals in accordance with African customs has become increasingly controversial. Apartheid once kept the races and their ways apart; now more black people are moving into middle class suburbs, and their new white neighbors object to the bloodletting.
The Arts and Culture Ministry has come to Yengeni's defense, saying he had a constitutional right to practice his culture.
"In the case of the Yengeni family, we observe selective racism that condemns this specific African ritual," said Sandile Memela, spokesman for the ministry, in a statement.
Memela noted that Muslim and Jewish communities also have rituals to kill animals to ensure their meat is halal and kosher.
"Strangely, this is not considered abnormal and thus their right to do so is rarely questioned," he said.
The South African Human Rights Commission has also stepped into the fray, calling for further debate on the issue.
Perrins has said that the SPCA recognizes the right for people to practice their culture but that his group would be remiss if it did not investigate allegations of animal cruelty.
"It is the circumstances not the practice of slaughtering that we are probing. If someone wants to slaughter an animal for whatever reasons we would like to have the animal rendered unconscious beforehand," he said
Perrins said the issue had created an opportunity to meet with cultural and traditional leaders to develop an understanding about each other's roles.
"It has done a lot of good. It has raised awareness about an almost everyday practice that many South Africans of European descent are in a state of denial about," he said.
Perrins said a SPCA officer had interviewed Yengeni's brother and father who claimed the slaughter was in line with ritual practices.
Perrins said if convicted of animal cruelty, Yengeni could face up to a year in jail or a fine of between 20,000 (about US$2,800; about euro2,100) and 200,000 rands (about US$28,000, euro 21,000).


Updated : 2021-05-16 14:28 GMT+08:00