junio 29, 2006

Animal killings: Religion freedom or cruelty?

(Ty Chandler, WROC-TV) 6/28/2006 .
When you see the end result, it could be difficult to imagine any justification for the mutilation of animals. The carcasses of several chickens, a dog and goat laid across a metal slab at the Humane Society. They are missing heads, limbs and internal organs. This may seem like a savage act by many mainstream Americans, however animal sacrifices lies at the very core of many very old religions.

"Quite often these animals are specifically purchased for that reason, to be used as animal sacrifice," explained Richard Gerbasi of the Humane Society.

Gerbasi said these acts are usually done as a means of gaining good fortune. He said beheaded chickens have turned up in Rochester before, but never anything at this level.

He described the condition of the goat. "They trimmed out the hide so you had the chest and torso still there with the genitalia and tail all attached, almost as if something you would wear apron style."

David Day, Professor of Anthropology at the Monroe Community College concluded, "There are many signs here that this is part of an Afro-Caribbean religion." Day said one in particular stands out, Santeria. Santeria is a religion that dates back to colonial times in Cuba and before that Western Africa. Santeria has since found a home in the United States, where many find its practices bizarre.

"Santeria without blood offering would be like Catholicism without mass," Day explained.

But are ritual animal killings justified in the name of religious freedom?

"The actual incident of ritual slaughter of animals for the conduct of Afro-Caribbean rituals is so infinitely small compared to the mass slaughter that allows you and me to have a Big Mac," Day argued.

However, the Humane Society sees it a bit differently.

"We think anytime you need to needlessly kill an animal that should be a crime within itself," said Gerbasi. "But by the law if the animal is suffering or inhumanely treated even in the condition it's kept in prior to ritual killing, that would be considered animal cruelty."

Gerbasi said incidents like this are becoming more common nationwide. He believes the displaced Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees could have something to do with that, since these religions are more prevalent in the New Orleans area. Investigators are not turning to surveillance video to help them identify a suspect. However, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Santeria Church on the issue of animal sacrifice.