The state of animal rights in South Africa

ROAR committee members Kate Janse van Rensburg and Kim Millard organise a vegan food tasting earlier in the week. Picture: Robynne Peatfield
ROAR committee members Kate Janse van Rensburg and Kim Millard organise a vegan food tasting earlier in the week. Picture: Robynne Peatfield

As the second event in a packed schedule for the Rhodes Organisation for Animal Rights (ROAR) Animal Rights Week, Michele Pickover, co-founder of Animal Rights Africa (ARA), hosted an insightful lecture on the state of animal rights in South Africa.

Her lecture described the difficulties and challenges facing by animal rights activists in South Africa and she highlighted a number of hostile protests received from social groups, government and environmental organizations who are against or indifferent to the rights and recognition of animals.

Pickover’s lecture revealed that the fight for animal rights is just as much as a political issue as it is an issue of humanity. She expressed it as “a war against genocide, slavery, torture and exploitation.” Throughout her lecture she reiterated this assimilation of the fight for animal rights as well as that of human beings.

“We human beings often see ourselves as superior to other life forms,” Pickover said. “We colonize animals and have turned them into property and the places where they are abused are hidden from public view.”

At the beginning and end of the lecture, graphic videos of farm animals being slaughtered were shown. The videos also highlighted that the grain fed to fatten up ‘livestock’ were enough to feed starving families in impoverished areas.

Pickover was not wrong in concluding that participation in animal activism should be thought through as it is certainly not for the faint-hearted, as the images were too much for some of the audience.

Pickover viewed her fight as being multi-faceted as she sees it up against racial and cultural groups, the global system of capitalism, the South African government’s concession to poaching and the conflict between animal rights and welfare groups. Broadly animal rights groups feel any exploitation or use of animals for human consumption is wrong and should be abolished while animal welfare groups advocate humane farming practices and animal treatment.

Student Nhlakanipho Zipho who attended the talk felt that the battle being fought by Pickover and others like her is not a new concept. “The fight for animal rights is a fight that has been fought many times before in history,” she said. In her opinion the talk could make anyone consider their use of animal products.

Words by Mamaputle Boikanyo

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