Love and death of cattle : the paradox in Suri attitudes toward livestock

TitleLove and death of cattle : the paradox in Suri attitudes toward livestock
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsG.J. Abbink
Secondary TitleEthnos
Pagination341 - 364
Date Published2003///
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Place PublishedAbingdon
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsattitudes, cattle, Ethiopia, Ethnic groups, pastoralists, Suri, violence

Livestock herding peoples are known for their close involvement with their animals, valuing them in multiple ways. This paper addresses the issue of the nature of emotional and moral commitment to livestock animals, particularly cattle, among a group of livestock herders in southwest Ethiopia, the Suri. From certain cases of cattle and sheep sacrifice it could be concluded that the Suri exercise particular cruelty towards their animals on ritual occasions. How do Suri themselves see the issue of 'affection vs cruelty' towards livestock animals? How do Suri attitudes toward animals relate to their attitudes toward humans, notably neighbouring ethnic groups with whom they are in conflict and who accuse them of using excessive violence? The paper argues that notions of affinity and equality indeed define human-animal relationships among the Suri, but that these do not resolve the tensions inherent in the fact that cattle for them has both economically useful and emotionally rewarding features. The author compares human-animal relations among the Suri with those found in industrial societies. [Journal abstract]

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