Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Talks to be held over 'cruel' Zulu bull-killing ritual

People chasing a bull

South African animal rights activists have agreed to meet Zulu groups in a bid to stop a bull-killing ritual, a senior official says.

Cultural commissioner Pat Mkhize announced the meeting after a court case brought by Animal Rights Africa was postponed.

They are suing Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, arguing that the ceremony, known as Ukweshwama, is cruel.

A royal spokesman said the killing was a highly symbolic way of thanking God.

How can one fight for the right of an animal when one doesn't even have right to the basic things of life?
Benjamin Bidi, Nigeria

Mr Mkhize said all parties had agreed to take part in talks in Durban on Tuesday.

"We have called a meeting of all parties because we believe that this matter can still be resolved out of court," South African news agency Sapa quoted him as saying.

Animal campaigners say the Ukweshwama ritual does nothing to strengthen nation-building, social cohesion or peace.

'Unfathomable' cruelty

In a statement, Animal Rights Africa quoted an eyewitness as saying the bull was tortured for 40 minutes during a previous ceremony.


"Dozens [of people] trampled the bellowing, groaning bull, wrenched its head around by the horns to try to break its neck, pulled its tongue out, stuffed sand in its mouth and even tried to tie its penis in a knot.

"Gleaming with sweat, they raised their arms in triumph and sang when the bull finally succumbed."

The group's spokesperson, Michele Pickover, said the treatment of the bull was "unfathomable".

"It physically pains us and is an affront to our dignity that an animal is made to suffer in such an overtly cruel and protracted way," she said.

Royal spokesman Nhlanhla Mtaka told the BBC's World Today programme the activists had misrepresented the ceremony.

"I have been attending this ceremony for 20 years and it does not happen the way they say it is," he said.

"You will hear young men and old people singing Zulu hymns and people sitting down and teaching each other about the value and history of the Zulus."

Zulu groups are adamant that the ceremony will go ahead on 5 December, saying their rights are protected by the constitution.

The Pietermaritzburg High Court scheduled the next hearing of the activists' case for 1 December.

Print Sponsor

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific