Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

World Cup stadium 'cow sacrifice' plan sparks row

Zulu youths chasing a bull
Animal sacrifice is a vital part of life for many South Africans

A proposal to bless South Africa's World Cup stadiums by slaughtering a cow in each one has caused concern among animal rights activists.

The Makhonya Royal Trust, which put forward the idea, described the cattle killing ritual as a "true African" way of blessing the 2010 tournament.

Government minister Sicelo Shiceka has promised to lobby football's governing body, Fifa, in support of the plan.

But animal rights groups have demanded to be consulted over the plans.

The row comes as a South African judge refused to stop a separate traditional Zulu bull-killing ceremony from going ahead on Saturday, instead calling on parliament to look at the issue.

The National Council for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) has written to Fifa over the World Cup issue.

The BBC's Mohammed Allie in Cape Town says the NSPCA does not object to the ritual slaughter of animals.

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth
New stadiums have been built for the eagerly anticipated World Cup

But the group wants to ensure it is done in a humane way and wants to be involved in the process to ensure the welfare of the cattle, our correspondent adds.

The Makhonya Royal Trust, which co-ordinates African cultural activities, said the sacrifice was an important way of ensuring a successful World Cup.

"We must have a cultural ceremony of some sort, where we are going to slaughter a beast," trust chairman Zolani Mkiva told Reuters news agency.

"We sacrifice the cow for this great achievement and we call on our ancestors to bless, to grace, to ensure that all goes well."

Mr Shiceka, the co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister, was quoted in South African media as giving his support to the plan.

"The World Cup will be on the African continent and we will make sure that African values and cultures are felt by the visitors," the Citizen newspaper quoted him as saying.

Legal challenge

The issue of cattle sacrifice was also discussed by a High Court on Tuesday, when Judge Nic Van der Reyden said the matter needed to be taken up by politicians.

Activists from Animal Rights Africa brought a legal challenge in an attempt to stop a traditional Zulu bull-killing ritual from going ahead at a harvest festival on Saturday.

Known as Ukweshwama, it involves a crowd of young men killing a bull with their hands, and is considered to be a rite of passage to manhood.

The judge in Pietermaritzburg said the activity was as important to the Zulu tradition as the Holy Communion was to Catholics, South Africa's Sapa news agency reported.

"I suggest that all parties sit down and agree whether video footage can be taken during the ritual so that this matter can be handled by parliament," he said.

The activists said they had tried to lobby the Zulu king and the government, whose leader President Jacob Zuma is a Zulu, but had had no response.

However members of the Zulu royal family were believed to be at the court hearing.

The parties are due to return to court on Friday.

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