Target: Government of South Africa
Goal: Stop animal cruelty at the Zulu Ukweshwama ritual in South Africa, where a bull is brutally tortured for up to an hour.
The Ukweshwama ritual, or the First Fruits Festival, is a Zulu celebration in South Africa intended to give thanks to God for the first crops of the season. To celebrate, a bull is released into a crowd and slowly tortured by bare-handed men for nearly an hour. The poor animal has its head wrenched from side to side in order to break his neck, his eyes and tongue are ripped out, and sand is stuffed into his mouth until he asphyxiates or bleeds to death. This practice has been protested for many years, but the South African government refuses to ban it because the ritual is the “heart of Zulu tradition.” Cruelty is cruelty, regardless of tradition, and humans have progressed beyond inflicting pain on innocent animals for pleasure. Urge the government of South Africa to reconsider its decision to allow these animals to suffer an agonizing death for the sake of tradition.
While few would have reason to criticize the vibrant culture of the Zulu people, many oppose the festival because it does not comply with laws against animal cruelty. Activists who oppose Ukweshwama have also pointed out that violent rituals, no matter how sacred they are to the culture, often breed violent people.
This truth is illustrated by the words of the special advisor to the premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Godfrey Siphosihle Mdluli, when he said that there would be an “outpouring of anger that there is the danger of widespread unrest and civil disobedience” should the festival be banned. Many African activists who oppose the festival see this widespread societal violence as a direct result of violent practices, such as torturing animals. While it is important to respect a culture’s traditions and rituals, it is evident that animal torture not only harms the animals severely, but it also desensitizes people to violence. For these reasons, ill-treatment of bulls in the Ukweshwama festival must stop.
Despite the risk of civil disobedience, the South African government does a disservice to its people by allowing violence to continue in this manner. Not only are innocent animals killed and tortured at the hands of men, but the entire society suffers when men believe they can dominate and inflict pain on others for their own pleasure. Ask the South African government to make the responsible decision to end the torture of bulls in the Ukweshwama festival.
Dear Government of South Africa,
For many years, the Ukweshwama practice has been protested by people around the world. Many South Africans oppose it because of the unnecessary torture young bulls must endure at the hands of men. It is inexcusable that animal cruelty is allowed to persist to protect a cultural tradition. More so, this practice has not been outlawed because your government fears the “danger of widespread unrest and civil disobedience.” That a group of people will react with violence upon hearing that a cruel practice must be banned shows how deeply violence has permeated the culture.
The answer is not ignorance. The answer is change. No practice so blatantly cruel should be allowed in any human society. It harms animals and causes them unnecessary suffering, but it also desensitizes people to violence in general. Banning the torture of bulls at this festival is a step in the right direction for the people of South Africa who partake in the festival of Ukweshwama.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: animalrightsafrica.org