Slaughtering for the purpose of showing gratitude, asking for protection or asking for healing from ancestors has been an African cultural tradition dating back hundreds of years. Animals included in the rituals are chickens, goats, cows and sheep, depending on the nature of the ceremony. Many arguments strike between traditionalist and animal cruelty activists, especially when the tradition is conducted in urban areas, near other neighbours. However, for the neighbourhood to get along, compromises must be made.

What laws protect traditionalists?

Section 15 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act, under the Bill of Rights, states that everyone has the right to freedom of religion and belief. Section 31(1) also protects the right for people to enjoy their culture, which includes the ritual slaughter of animals as a cultural belief. It extends that observances follow rules made by public authorities. Municipal by-laws are drawn up to protect those wishing to conduct ceremonies which include the slaughtering of animals in urban areas.


  1. A notice must be submitted to the local municipality 14 days before the expected commencement of the slaughtering ritual.
  2. The notification of the type of animal that will be slaughtered should also be given.
  3. Commencement of the ritual may occur when the applicant has received a permit from the municipality.

In sectional living, such as townhouses, the body corporate trustees should be notified of such a ceremony.


The procedure of slaughtering may vary from culture to culture, however basic regulations still apply. The animals may not be kept for a period longer than 12 hours prior to slaughtering, in accordance to the terms of the Abattoir Hygiene Act of 1992.

With the purpose of respecting the neighbours association with the slaughtering, the procedure should be carried out in an enclosed area, out of the public’s eye where people not involve with the ritual would not be able to observe.

The suffering caused to the animal must be kept at a minimum, with the slaughtering being conducted in a humane manner. Once the ritual has been completed, proper steps must be complied with in carcass removal, as well as with the hygiene and the city ordinances to ensure the respect of the neighbourhood. Furthermore, the slaughter ceremony does not constitute the selling of the meat, but rather for free consumption by those in attendance of the ritual.


  • McCrindle, C. (2017). Ritual Slaughter in South Africa. [ebook] Pretoria: University of Pretoria, p.2. Available at: [Accessed 15 Jun. 2017].
  • News24. (2017). By laws need to ‘accommodate slaughter’. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jun. 2017].
  • (2017). South African ritual animal slaughter. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Jun. 2017].

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)