Religion & Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1995:

Dewey Bruce Hale, 40, of
Enigma, Georgia, on January 18
became the 74th confirmed rattlesnake
bite fatality since Pentacostal churches
took up snakehandling as a test of faith,
derived from Mark 16, “In my name
they shall take up serpents,” and Luke
10: “I give unto you power to tread on
serpents and scorpions.” The snakehan-
dling ceremonies are legal only in
Georgia and West Virginia.
The animist tradition of sac-
rificing a beast “to notify the ancestors”
upon occupying a new home has created
new tensions in South Africa as black
families move into formerly all-white
communities. Often called, the SPCA
of South Africa is unable to intervene
because the sacrifices are legal under
laws guaranteeing religious freedom.

“It’s been going on for years,”
Johannesburg SPCA chapter executive
director Marcelle Meredith recently told
Isabelle Wilkerson of The New York
Times. “It never worried whites until it
was in their sight. Now they worry that
their children have to see it.”
Le Soleil, a pro-government
daily published in Dakar, Senegal, on
February 1 ran a photo of a fish caught
by Lebanese Christian Georges Wehbe,
46, whose body purportedly carried
markings in Arabic script––recognized
by Wehbe’s Moslem wife––reading
“Mohammad, Servant and Envoy of
God.” The message was said to have
been verified by Sheikh Abdel Monein
Zein of the Lebanese Islamic Institute.
Acting on a plea from the All
India Animal Welfare Association, of
Bombay, the Karnataka High Court and
Bangalore High Court in early January
both banned a fox massacre held at the
first full moon each year by the villages
of Kadabal and Dhanaganhalli (near
Bangalore) in honor of Sankranti, a
local Hindu harvest diety. Traditionally
dozens of foxes’ mouths are sewn shut,
their left ears are pierced with large
golden earrings, and after a chariot ride
to the local temple followed by a drink-
ing party, firecrackers are tied to their
tails and detonated. Fleeing into the for-
est, the foxes usually die of their
wounds. The massacre is profane
according to most interpretations of
Hinduism, which in strictest form for-
bids ever killing animals.
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