There are no absolutes when it comes to rights. The legal system in the United States allows for continuous challenge of all and any laws. Therefore, the hard earn right to animal sacrifice that took years and massive resources to be won at the Supreme Court level is and will always be open to challenge.
It is imperative that all practitioners of the Lukumí community and of all other African Traditional Religions are fully aware that their conduct and behavior when performing animal sacrifice will always be under scrutiny and that it affects not only those around their ilés (osha houses) but also the community at large. There is no way to circumvent this reality.
A recent event such as the arrest on July 11, 2011 of Raúl Armenteros, a Cuban porn star who was transporting animals in a van with the windows rolled up and under sweltering conditions in Miami, Florida, sheds a negative light onto our community, not once but with twice the power.
Firstly, his chosen profession is no positive reflection onto our community, but then again, I am sure there is Christian, Jewish and Buddhist porn stars somewhere to be found as well. The issue is they do not get arrested for stupidly transporting animals for a sacrifice focusing undue and detrimental attention to our community. Quite frankly I am disgusted by the negative attention and I think the full weight of the law should fall upon this individual for his lack of judgment.
No right is eternal. If we are to preserve the integrity of our religion, it is fundamental that we continue to have the right to animal sacrifice. No blood, no birth of Orishas, it is as simple as that.
What to do as a community?
Ilés need to have as part of the training to members a serious discussion about the fragility of our rights to Animal Sacrifice. Rights that must be preserved at all cost and the role we all have as responsible practitioners to act with decorum and respect when preparing to conduct and performing animal sacrifice. Part of this is to impart among ilé members clear guidelines as to what is necessary in the process of purchasing, transporting, keeping and sacrificing an animal. However, mere education is not a deterrent for improper handling, ilés should also consider carefully a set of fines if rules are broken as some folks only learn the hard way and the mistakes made by one single individual can and will erode the hard won rights we now brandish thinking them eternal.
Let me repeat this for clarity: No right is eternal.
Here are some key discussion items that should be part of a conversation in any ilé:
1. Selection of animals for sacrifice
2. Handling of fowl and four legged animals
3. Proper selection of vehicles for animal transportation
4. Cages (dimensions must allow the animal to stand comfortably and have proper ventilation)
5. Animals must have access to food and water if they are going to be held in waiting
6. What to do if an agent of the law and order detains a member of the ilé
7. Consideration of community at large and their sensitivities. The fact that Orisha followers practice animal sacrifice and we have the right to do so, does not make it palatable or has to be forced down the throats of other people
8. Practice prudence, caution and don’t flaunt your rights
9. Understand local health and sanitation ordinances
10. Know how to dispose of ritual remains in a manner according to ritual specifications, local law and common sense. Polluting water sources, street corners and public spaces is not an option.
This is a serious call to action to all responsible godparents and to all African Traditional Religion followers out there. It is imperative to take appropriate steps to preserve the rights we have. This is not a matter to be taken lightly and it is certainly something that can’t be swept under a magic rug.
Furthermore, there is an underlying issue that also needs to be addressed and that is the quality of initiates we continue to allow into our ranks. Think of it. We have the right to choose who comes or who does not into our ilés. Certainly the orisha selects heads, but the heads of the priests who perform initiations are not ornaments and money should not be the only criteria of admittance into the orisha ranks. Tell me the company you keep and I will tell you who you are. Likewise, your character will be reflected in the manner in which treat and care for the lives you intend to offer the orisha to placate, initiate or thank them for favors rendered.
There is only one way to do things, the right way and this will preserve our rights. Did I say this before? No right is eternal.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá
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