Know your Santeria

goat-know-your-goatThe New York Times City Room blog has a story about the fourth goat in four months to be found wandering near the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Bronx. We learn that animal rescuers were befuddled by the wandering goats because they didn't have metal tags in their ears or the spray paint that indicates they're from live markets. The goats were all taken to Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue organization. The article suggests a possible explanation:

While the goats could have been dumped sick animals or live-market escapees, a number of neighbors have called animal-care officials to speculate that the goats might be part of the sacrificial rituals of Santeria, a religion created several centuries ago by West Africans enslaved in colonial Cuba and imported to New York City in the 1940s.

"The neighborhood where these goats are being found, there are a lot of Santeria, people who practice Santeria," said Susie Coston, the national shelter director for Farm Sanctuary. "They've seen skulls and obvious sacrificed animals before."

Various people alleging the same thing are mentioned. And we learn that animal sacrifices are controversial and inspire court cases. We even get this graphic depiction, after which we learn that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that this religious sacrament is protected by the First Amendment:

For years, animal groups stopped ceremonies, rescued chickens, goats and lambs, and had the practitioners, known as santeros, arrested. Santeros kill animals, usually by slicing their carotid arteries, in rituals for major events like birth, death, marriage and the initiation of priests. The blood is used as an offering, and in most cases the sacrificed animals are cooked and eaten.

But while we get tons of perspective from animal rescue groups, there is literally not one practitioner of Santeria whose views are included. We don't even hear from a professor or other expert who could speak about Santeria. And finally, I'm unclear how these live, wandering goats are related to animals killed as part of a religious sacrifice. Maybe we could just get some explanation on that front.

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