Are Human Rights Enough? The CLEA Human Rights Curriculum and the Issue of Animal Welfare/Rights

Paper presented at the 2013 CLEA Conference in Durban

Steve Pete and Angela Crocker
School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal

The model CLEA Human Rights Curriculum is silent on issues of animal rights and animal welfare. In light of the extent to which the lives of humans and animals are inextricably intertwined, this silence is, perhaps, to be regretted. The authors of this paper seek to explore the manner in which human rights are often interlinked with issues of animal rights and/or animal welfare. As a specific case study, the paper examines the public furore surrounding the ritual bull killing which forms part of the Ukweshwama ceremony held each year in KwaZulu-Natal. During this ceremony, which is held in honour of the “first fruits”, a bull is killed by a group of young Zulu warriors using their bare hands. The ritual is opposed by certain animal rights/animal welfare campaigners, who believe it is cruel to the animal which is sacrificed. A highly polarised debate has arisen between those opposed to any form of cruelty to animals on the one hand, and those seeking to defend ancient cultural practices on the other. With this as a lens, the paper examines the wide range of positions adopted by philosophers and legal scholars vis-a-vis difficult questions of animal rights and cruelty to animals. Tentative conclusions are drawn on the broad question of whether or not it is sufficient simply to promote ‘human’ rights, while remaining silent on the issue of animal welfare/rights.

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