Chicken 'killers' set to land up in court

By Yunus Kemp Time of article published Oct 2, 2003

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The saga of the chicken slaughtered during a live performance at the Baxter Theatre will take centre stage in court if the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is successful in its bid to have those responsible prosecuted.

The SPCA has handed a docket to detectives at the Rondebosch police station in which it outlined its case against the Baxter Theatre, the director of the play iMumbo Jumbo, Brett Bailey, his production company Third World Bunfight, and cast members involved in the slaughter of the chicken.

Once the police have concluded their investigation, they will hand the matter to the public prosecutor, who will then decide whether or not to take it to court.

In August, several shocked audience members walked out of the theatre on the last night of iMumbo Jumbo when the chicken was "ritualistically" slaughtered.

The actors, who included real-life sangomas, had been conducting a nightly mock sacrifice as part of the performance, but had decided to go all the way on the closing night.

The chicken, Veronica, which had been used up until the show's last performance, was spared as the cast and crew had grown too fond of her.

A "stunt" chicken was bought at the same roadside stall in Philippi where Veronica had been purchased, and was slaughtered on stage instead.

Veronica is living a life of luxury on the Spier wine estate.

Shaun Bodington, the SPCA's chief inspector in the Western Cape, said six audience members had contacted his office to complain.

"Only two of them were willing to give statements and these were included in the docket. We also took various press articles, and consulted an attorney to get advice and discuss the charges we wanted to bring in terms of the Animals Protection Act," Bodington said.

The SPCA was seeking to have Bailey and his production company, cast members and the Baxter Theatre charged under the Animals Protection Act for inflicting or causing unnecessary suffering to the chicken.

"Our main concern is that they did not obtain a permit to have a live chicken on stage. They would have had to get it through a magistrate who would check the application with us.

"If an application had been made to have the chicken slaughtered, we would in any case have rejected it on the moral understanding that the slaughter of animals should not be a public spectacle and that it was against our policies," said Bodington.

Barbara Mathers, general manager of Third World Bunfight, said they had been advised by their lawyer to not discuss the matter.

"It is up to the chief prosecutor whether to prosecute or not. We, including Brett, have given police statements. Other than that we cannot comment," said Mathers.

The theatre company had previously contended that the slaughter was a closing ceremony for the end of the run and they saw it a fitting finale as they had slaughtered a chicken off-stage before its opening in Grahamstown.

They also felt the slaughter was not senseless because it was a ritual that happened in everyday life.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Nina Kirsten said Rondebosch detectives were trying to secure affidavits from everyone involved.

The sangoma who performed the slaughter, Ntombe Tongo, lived in the Eastern Cape and detectives here would have to ask the police there to get a statement from Tongo, said Kirsten.

Bodington said the SPCA was intent on "following this through".

"We will be in contact with the detective on a regular basis and as soon as we know who the prosecutor is, we will sit down with that person to discuss the Animals Protection Act," he said.

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