Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

Zulu king wins South Africa bull-killing case

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

A bull-killing ritual can go ahead on Saturday after a court ruled against an animal rights group which tried to have the practice banned in South Africa.

The bull is killed during the Ukushwama ritual, an annual thanksgiving event in Kwa-Zulu Natal, in which youngsters kill the animal using their hands.

Animal Rights Africa took the Zulu king and the government to court over the manner in which the bull is killed.

ARA says it will consult its lawyers on what do next.

During his judgement the Pietermaritzburg High Court, Judge Nic van der Reyden said he was satisfied with the evidence of cultural expert Professor Jabulani Mapalala that the ARA's objection to the ritual was based on untrue information and hearsay, reports Sapa news agency.

'Cruel and protracted'

ARA claimed that the killing took some 40 minutes and involved dozens of men trampling on the beast as they tried to break its neck.

I am very happy that I am going to participate in a cultural practice that is very sacred and dear to us as Zulu people
Albert Mncwango
Inkatha Freedom Party

The organisation described the killing as "cruel and protracted".

ARA's Michelle Pikover told the BBC that it took King Goodwill Zwelithini to court "as a last resort".

"There had been various attempts over the years by other organisations to approach the Zulu royal household to engage them on that particular aspect - the manner in which the animal is killed.

"There've been no meetings at all. In fact the door has been completely closed… which is why we took the matter to court," she said.

The court's decision has caused mixed reactions.

Inkatha Freedom Party Member of Parliament, Albert Mncwango told the BBC that the killing "doesn't even take a minute".

Mr Mncwango has to attend a number of these ceremonies and says they are an important part of Zulu culture.

"As a Zulu I am very happy that I am going to participate in a cultural practice that is very sacred and dear to us as Zulu people," he said.

A time to "thank God for the first fruits of the season".

Ms Pikover said she was "very disappointed at the ruling".

"It's a very sad day for dignity, respect and compassion," she told the BBC.

The ritual is to take place in Kwa-Nongoma in President Jacob Zuma's home province.

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