Beauty without Cruelty

Mar 12, 2018 | Press Releases




Parliament, Cape Town: 10 March 2018


I want to thank Beauty Without Cruelty and all the NGOs who have joined this march. Thank you for speaking up for animals. Your voice will ensure that their voice is heard by the legislators and policy-makers in Government.

I have asked Advocate Mitchell to convey to you my message of support, because I want you to know that there are political leaders who share your passion for animal rights. The IFP is receiving your petition today as fellow activists, to ensure that it reaches the personal attention of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Minister of Environmental Affairs.

I support this march not only as a political leader, but as the Patron of the Wildlands Conservation Trust. Long before I became a political leader, I became a conservationist.

In the 1950s I had long conversations with a few young rangers of the Natal Parks Board, one of whom was Dr Ian Player. We talked about South Africa’s natural heritage, our wildlife, our natural ecosystems and the responsibility we carry as human beings to strive for harmony with our natural environment.

We are not merely co-inhabitants on this planet with fauna and flora, but stewards and custodians, with the moral responsibility of protecting their wellbeing.

But it is not our moral responsibility towards animals that bestows value on them. Animals have intrinsic value. All animals, whether wild or domestic, are undoubtedly sentient beings.

I say this as someone who has experienced the love of an animal. I saw in my own dog, Bullet, that animals are capable of experiencing not just base needs like hunger, but relational emotions like loyalty, empathy and joy. I see in my wife’s lapdog, Tootsie, how an animal can give – and feel – affection and how much value it brings to my wife’s wellbeing. Theirs is not a relationship of master and servant, but one of mutual care. Tootsie is part of our family.

I must say, it is somehow unusual for Zulus to keep dogs other than for hunting and protection. When I met my wife, I was surprised to find a black girl with a lapdog, and more surprised still when she insisted on bringing her dog with when we married. At first I wondered whether the dog would come between us, because it held such a preferred place in her heart.

But instead, as I witnessed her relationship with domestic animals, I began to love them myself. Today, my work as a conservationist is married to my personal affection for animals. It’s not just about protecting our biodiversity. It’s about respecting animals as individuals. They are more than a natural resource. They are sentient beings.

I therefore support the drive to amend the Animal Protection Act and other legislation to include sentience in the definition of an animal. My friend, Lawrence Anthony, once wrote, “Until we allow all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.”

I am proud of what I have accomplished as a conservationist. In 1982, I established the Bureau of Natural Resources, which became South Africa’s first Department of Nature Conservation. As Chief Minister of KwaZulu, I set aside 29 000 hectares of land for the Tembe Elephant Park. There, our few remaining herds of elephant found refuge from poachers and landmines. So too did the endangered Suni antelope.

I worked with Dr Ian Player to revive the rhino population to the point where we could relocate surplus rhino to the Kruger National Park, ensuring their long-term survival. I have received international awards and recognition, and have found kinship with leading conservationists like Sir Laurens van der Post, His Highness the Prince of Wales and Sir David Rattray.

But I realise that these are small things compared to the big things that many are doing on behalf of animals. There are children in our rural villages who have had the remarkable courage to report their relatives when they overhead plans for poaching. There are good men and women who give up their lives to stop the slaughter of rhinos. And there are people like you, who campaign relentlessly so that the rights of animals will never be ignored.

I can only thank you, and thank you again. May our voice be heard on behalf of every animal.

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