Don’t get me wrong. I am all for culture and tradition. If you want to live in a mud hut and run around in a loin cloth and paint mud on your face, fine! I have no problem with that. But when your cultural practices involve barbaric cruelty which are a direct violation of the laws of the country, yes. I do have a major problem with that.

 this bull will suffer a cruel and painful death

What am I talking about? Well I am referring to the “First Fruits Festival of Ukweshwama” Each year, during the first week of December, Zulu youngsters in Kwa-Zulu Natal (South Africa) try to prove their manhood by killing a bull with their bare hands. They will gouge out its eyes, break its tail, pull its tongue out, tie knots in its penis, shove dirt down its throat and squeeze its testicles until they burst. This does not prove you are a man. This proves you are a savage and the practice contravenes the Animals Protection Act, Act 71 of 1962 (section 2a)

The killing of the bull is done in order to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest. It is believed that the strength of the dying bull is transferred to the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini. Proponents of this practice argue that the bull MUST suffer because their ancestors made the animals suffer. I kid you not. The fact that we are living in the 21st century, with modern technology, Facebook, air-conditioning and so forth does not mean a thing.

the bull MUST suffer

Attempts to get the ANC government to enforce the Animals Protection Act have been in vain. Animal Rights for Africa last year brought a court application to have the festival stopped. It soon turned into a mud-slinging match and instead of the focus being on perverse cruelty, ended up being a circus of black versus white and the trading of racial slurs and insults. It seems that Spaniards, considered white, and their equally cruel bull-fighting were all but forgotten. Spokesperson for the ANC, Zizi Kodwa wrote “The disrespect and contempt for African culture and traditions demonstrated by the debate that continues to ensue in our public discourse demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of those who have anointed themselves voices of reason. This is reminiscent of the arrival of the European settlers on our shores who declared that our people were barbaric heathens who needed to be civilised.”

Jacob Zuma attends the festival of cruelty

Kodwa misses the point completely. This is a cruel practice and against the law of the land. If one were to bring culture into it, consider the following cultural practices. Foot-binding, female genital mutilation, Mayan child sacrifices and even Apartheid. Just because something is cultural does not mean that it is right.  As a complete slap in the face for animal rights, Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s polygamous president, attended the festival last year in a show of support. I asked the SPCA what they will be doing this year in order to ensure the welfare of the bull. Their response is, and I quote “Unfortunately, traditional and religious rites override the welfare of animals under the constitution. The South African Police Services have made it clear in the past that SPCA inspectors will not receive their protection at the ‘Festival of First Fruits’ or assist them in stopping the ritual.”

You can add your voice of contempt by signing the petition by following this link on and please feel free to comment by clicking on comments tab top of this post. Is this a case of cultural intolerance or is this a practice that should be condemned?