Good to talk issues out

YOU have to spare a thought for Judge Nic van der Reyden.

He had to decide whether the Zulu tradition of young men killing a bull with their bare hands was a gratuitous act of cruelty against the animal or a legitimate cultural practice.

As the judge found, there can be no easy answers. It is a discussion that can never have winners.

Much as we support the rights of the Zulu people to practise their culture, including killing the bull in the manner prescribed, we are, however, glad that the discussion happened and did so as robustly as it did.

In an open society such as ours we can ill afford the sanctification of the public discourse where some issues or personalities are holy cows.

We are a multicultural and multiethnic society and it is therefore unavoidable that cultural clashes will occur.

An argument that relies solely on the relativist premise that its practitioners have no problem with it will not hold. We would, for example, be opposed to genital mutilation even if it is done in the name of culture.

Similarly, a discussion based on cultural arrogance and prejudice is a non-starter.

The right to protect animals from cruelty is no less important than the rights of any community to practise their cultures and religions.

It would be intolerable for any group to assume a moral high ground based on their narrow understanding of what is worthy or for another to believe that their actions are beyond probing.