Rastafarianism

A Hermeneutic of Animal Care

Authored by: Adrian Anthony McFarlane

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Animal Ethics

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138592728
eBook ISBN: 9780429489846
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780429489846-14

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Abstract

The coronation of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 ushered in a wind of change in the thinking of African leaders and people, on the continent and in the diaspora. It was a major encouragement that the stranglehold of colonialism could be broken, but it was more than that: it gave a flicker of hope that the African people could more than chattels and that they might one day be numbered among “the nations of the world”. However, the response to the coronation in the tiny country of Jamaica was nothing short of a historical transforming moment. That coronation functioned as a cultural and political “midwife” to the dreams and aspirations that African peoples have inherent worth. Thus, an unimpressive group of social misfits grasped the opportunity of the occasion to declare Selassie as the (real) messiah and therefrom developed a set of beliefs and practices that were counter-culture and iconoclastic. The sheer audacity of their claims to equality, grounded in a mantra of “Peace and Love”, was astounding, though quickly defined as mental aberration or, at best, rank stupidity. The aims of the group were repatriation to Africa, justice in the country to which they have been forced to live, a simple life style of subsistence farming and trades, peaceful and loving coexistence, the care of family–particularly those who cannot care for themselves– a commitment to pharmacopeia, a rejection of the eating of meat and the care of domestic animals. Of course, its primary aim was to secure Africa for Africans and to mentally disrobe Black people from colonial and destructive white dominated patterns of anti-black categories (Bob Marley later lyricized it as: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but yourselves can do you much harm”). It is my intention to explain why Rastafari is the only African-Caribbean religion that does not use blood (animal) sacrifice and why it’s moral code embraces the best of Christianity in rhetoric.

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