Monday, July 4, 2011

A Famous Grouse: July 2

Latest column, as submitted to Weekend Argus for publication. The Stormers lost, by the way. There are some people I know who like to be reminded of this. -- AD

BRAAING this afternoon? Perhaps a few slabs of cow and a yard of boerie on a fire with some mates before the game starts?

Here’s a suggestion: when picking up provisions why not ask the butchery if they have anything in non-cruelty, or meat that was prepared for consumption without religious interference? See where that gets you.

I mention this only because there’s been an awful hubbub from the bearded fellows in robes now that the Dutch parliament has passed a bill outlawing the slaughter of livestock without first stunning the animals -- meaning that procedures that make meat kosher for Jews and halal for Muslims will be banned.

According to reports, observant Jews and Muslims would have to import their meat from abroad, stop eating meat altogether, or leave the Netherlands altogether if the law was enforced -- which has led to an outcry about infringement of religious freedoms and charges of anti-Semitism.

Here the Jerusalem Post has been particularly instructive, noting that Switzerland first banned ritual slaughter in 1893 as part of a campaign to discourage Jewish immigration and get Swiss Jews to leave the country. Recent attempts to reverse the ban have been strongly opposed, often “with strong xenophobic undertones”.

The Nazis also banned ritual slaughter in 1933 -- unless the animal was first stunned. The Scandinavian countries -- Iceland, Norway and Sweden -- soon followed suit, also insisting on stunning before slaughter. More recently, New Zealand banned ritual slaughter on animal welfare grounds. Now the Dutch want to follow suit for similar reasons.

This was not good enough for the Post, which asked: “Could animal rights’ activists opposed to [the Islamic practice of] dhabiha and [Judaism’s counterpart] shechita be receiving their ethical inspiration from a regime responsible for human history’s largest genocide? At the very least the Nazi precedent teaches that purported concern for animal rights is no guarantee of good moral sense.”

So, the “underdog-loving Left . . . ostensibly motivated by concern over purported suffering caused to poultry, sheep and cattle”, as the Post has labelled animal rights activists, are now like Nazis?

Please, you’d have to better than that.

It’s not a wholly unique charge. Look at the opprobrium heaped upon those who objected to the Ukweshwama, the annual bull-killing ritual in honour of the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini; they’ve ludicrously been labelled anti-African, anti-tradition, anti-monarchy, anti-Zulu, anti-ubuntu and just about everything else this side of Oprah Winfrey.

No doubt some of us were. Is it just me, or are there others who find the notion of tribal “royalty” and its attendant privilege utterly repugnant? This is the 21st century, not so? We live in a constitutional republic, damn it, and these people suck up our tax bucks to live like feudal muck, happy as pigs in the proverbial? Thought so.

But I digress. Most objectors to Ukweshwama were merely of the opinion that the spectacle of dozens of young oafs trampling a bellowing, groaning animal, trying to break its neck, pulling its tongue out, stuffing sand in the animal’s mouth and even ripping off its genitals as cruel and unnecessary.

Which is hardly the same thing as ritual slaughtering. Nonetheless, there is considerable opinion out there that suggests it is not the animals’ interests that we are serving here, but some form of cultural imperialism -- even Islamophobia. In this regard, one rabbi in Amsterdam, Yitschok Huisman, has told reporters that Jews weren’t really the target of the Dutch legislators -- but have wound up as collateral damage, so to speak. “At this point, the step was mainly meant to hurt the Muslims,” Huisman said. “Many don’t like them here.”

Scientists are suggesting that animals do suffer more when ritually slaughtered. The Royal Dutch Veterinary Association, for one, claims that during “slaughter of cattle while conscious and to a lesser extent that of sheep, the animals’ wellbeing is unacceptably damaged”.

Yeah, I hear you. Ethics before irony. That’s their motto.

Of course, there was a time when kosher killing -- if I may put it that way -- was considered more humane. And that was millennia ago when our forefathers killed animals with rocks or ate them while they were still alive.

But, you know, with technological advances in the field of killing animals . . . well, there may come a time when future generations look back at all this and think, How strange that our forefathers ate meat, and how cruelly they treated animals. Until then, though, perhaps the supermarkets could start labelling their meat as cruelty-free.

Lastly, think of this: would a Stormers victory be any sweeter if it went down with veggie burger? No, thought not.

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