The previous issue of PoultryPress urged people to write to the pueblos that held rooster pulls last summer and tell them to stop this cruel dismemberment ritual. In reply, writers have been receiving a form letter signed by the First Lieutenant Governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, Steve Juanico, that tries to justify the rooster pull by arguing that Native Americans are conquered nations that historically have always been put down; the rooster pull is not "torture for fun," but "a regeneration of everything that embodies life in all forms here on this planet"; it represents "the regard we have for the regeneration of all life cycles without going into detail." Finally, the writer is asked "to consider how you would respond if someone asked you to free all animals from slavery or imprisonment." (Notwithstanding rhetoric about "Life" in the abstract this question concedes that the roosters at Acoma are in a state of slavery and imprisonment.)
This soggy letter provoked a follow-up letter from Emily Fano, who wrote in part:
"While I appreciate that Native Americans have historically been oppressed and your cultural traditions `put down,' that does not give you license to kill other living beings. Indeed, it should elicit more compassion for other oppressed beings and cultures, as [other] animals have been oppressed by humans since the beginning of time.
"With respect to your cultural traditions being `put down,' I would suggest there has been a renewed consciousness and hence appreciation of Native American history, culture and traditions of late. In fact, the history of Columbus's `discovery' of America is being rewritten and taught differently in schools as a result. This is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the many virtues of your culture. But killing animals in the name of tradition is not one of them.
"If, through the symbolic act of ripping a rooster's head off, or beating him to death until he dies, you are regenerating life (or so you claim), why not use a fruit to accomplish the same goal? And if you really want to regenerate life, why not plant trees. Trees grow and stay alive for centuries, providing oxygen, shade and beauty for generations. They provide a haven for birds, and create entire ecosystems of life by their very presence. While this may not be culturally familiar, culture need not be static or stagnant.
"I am myself a member of a religious minority; my own people have been oppressed and scapegoated for thousands of years. But I firmly believe it is the oppressed peoples who must lead by compassionate example. We must not give in to violence by justifying it or performing it ourselves, or by oppressing the weak...."
While it is fairly easy for an "outsider" to perceive the evil of the Rooster Pull, and rightly to demand a stop to it, it is often more difficult to apply the same standards of perception and judgment within our immediate culture. Yet how can we justify the effort to ban traditionalized abuses of nonhuman animals in other cultures, while seeking merely to regulate the banalities of evil in our own--like the systematic torture and killing of more than 30 million chickens and other animals every day merely to satisfy a conditioned appetite for their dead bodies and make money from it? Other cultures see this as hypocritical, morally inconsistent, and racist, and can invoke it as an excuse for complacency about their own societal cruelty to nonhuman animals. In the wake of such thoughts, United Poultry Concerns has come to feel that by promoting "humane slaughter" of poultry--hopelessly working to "regulate" the carnage and serve as experts (pseudo-experts) in the methodologies of murder--we are obscuring the vision of life that United Poultry Concerns is committed to achieving.
Write: Pueblo of Acoma, P.O. Box 309, Acomita, NM 87O34; Pueblo of Zia, 135 Capital Square Drive, San Ysidro, NM 87053; Pueblo of Santo Domingo, P.O. Box 99, Santo Domingo, NM 87052; Pueblo of Santa Ana, 2 Dove Rd, Bernalillo, NM 87004; All Indian Pueblo Council, 3939 San Pedro Drive NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110 (phone: 505/881-1992; fax: 505/883-7682).