CULTURAL IDENTITY, TRADITION, AND THE RITUAL KILLING OF BULLS – A NOTE ON A RECENT DECISION OF THE FRENCH CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL ON THE LEGALITY OF BULLFIGHTING
Keywords:ritual bull-killing, Ukweshwama “first fruits” ceremony, animal-rights, ancient rituals, animal sacrifice, ritual killing of animals, animal-welfare groups, Spanish bullfighting
In a recent two-part article in this journal, the authors of this note analysed the controversy surrounding the ritual bull-killing which takes place during the Ukweshwama “first fruits” ceremony held each year in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. While much of the Ukweshwama ceremony is uncontroversial, the ritual killing of a bull by young Zulu warriors with their bare hands attracted strong opposition from certain animal-rights groups, which resulted in legal action and public controversy. The authors attempted to disentangle the different legal, historical, political and philosophical strands which combined to make up a complex story about the place of ancient rituals in the modern world, particularly those involving animal sacrifice. They also attempted to situate the controversy around the Ukweshwama bull-killing ritual within a contemporary global context, by comparing and contrasting the Zulu bull-killing ceremony on the one hand, and Spanish bullfighting on the other. The purpose of the present note is to report on recent developments in what is a global debate on the place of ancient rituals which involve the ritual killing of animals, within modern constitutional democracies. In particular, this note will examine and discuss the outcome of a recent legal challenge brought before the Constitutional Council of the Republic of France by certain animal-welfare groups in that country. The challenge was directed at bringing an end to a legal exception which operates in certain parts of the country – that is, those with an uninterrupted local tradition of bullfighting – excluding bullfighting from the provisions of animal-welfare legislation. The legal, political and cultural issues which arise as a result of this legal challenge are of relevance to those in South Africa who are concerned, one way or the other, about the future of the annual Ukweshwama bull-killing ritual in KwaZulu-Natal. Like it or not, although the bull-killing rituals which take place in the South of France and in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa are very different, the similarities between the rituals and their impact on broader society (legally, politically and culturally), are such that they cannot be ignored. The authors make a similar point in relation to the links between Spanish bullfighting and the Ukweshwama bull-killing ritual.
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