Chairperson thanked the Vice-Chair for her detailed presentation.
561.The delegation of Belgium supported the remarks by the Subsidiary Body on criteria R.1 and R.2, which focused on the use of animals in fights that might be shocking and violent. It asked that the responses concerning these fights be reviewed in a subsequent cycle.
562.The delegation of Brazil remarked that it looked carefully at the file, spoke to colleagues from the delegation of China, contacted other delegations about these sensitive subjects, and felt that the Committee was imposing its own concepts of what was acceptable or not on other people’s cultures for which it had to be careful not to sanitize its vision of intangible cultural heritage. The delegation explained that rural people have had traditional relationships with animals for millennia that were part of their way of life, adding that imposing urban concerns on them risked interfering with their practices that would de-characterizing them and achieve the opposite of that originally intended by the Convention. It wished to give China the opportunity to clarify how these animal fights take place in this festival, and its importance for the people. It was of the understanding that the animals were not killed during the fights, but that it was a demonstration of strength, comparable to games and disputes among the members of these communities. In addition, the community was a Tibetan minority in China that now lived at the frontier of Myanmar and Thailand, and other countries. This nomination would safeguard the traditions of this minority in China. The delegation therefore had two questions. Firstly, in criterion R.1, whether the component involving animal fights during the Torch Festival was compatible with respecting the sensitivity of communities, groups and individuals; and in criterion R.2, how the components of the festival, which use animals, encouraged dialogue among communities with a different sensitivity. The delegation further stressed the need to protect a very ancient, rural culture, adding that it did not wish to safeguard a fake nomination, but to protect the Yi people and their traditions, which had been practised for millennia.
563.The delegation ofBulgaria noted the justified decision of the Subsidiary Body, but it also sought more information in order to make an informed decision, and it associated with the questions posed by Brazil.
564.The delegation of Côte d’Ivoirenoted that China had submitted an ancient practice involving rural communities, but the Subsidiary Body also drew attention to practices that might upset those of a sensitive nature, adding that the respect for animals was important to UNESCO. It therefore proposed that China explain the use of animals.
565.The delegation of Mongolia found the nomination very interesting, and agreed with the remarks made by Brazil. It also sought clarifications from China on the animal fights, and whether they had some symbolic meaning.
566.The delegation of Greece echoed the remarks by Brazil with whom it fully agreed. It noted that the festival was a very old tradition about offerings to the ancestors and sacrifices to the fire, which was at the heart of every civilization. The delegation sought further clarification from China on the role of the animals, as it felt that it did not refer to fighting but a way of showing strength.
567.The delegation of Republic of Korea acknowledged that the animal fights was a major element that stood in the way of inscription, as cited in paragraph 3 of the draft decision. It supported the Subsidiary Body’s view that the violent use of living animals for entertainment did not respect the sensitivity of diverse communities and sustainable development, and did not encourage dialogue among communities that have a different sensitivity. However, when examining the inscription of the entire element, with the use of animals only playing a part in the multiple aspects, their use should be considered within the wider perspective of the element’s social function and cultural meaning. For example, how did the audience recognize the use of living animals: as part of ritual symbolism or as simple entertainment. If it proved to be a part of a ritual symbolism, it would thus give more flexibility in considering the use of animals. These could include whether intended violence takes place in the ritual, and whether protective measures were in place for those animals engaged in the ritual. In its opinion, this evaluation process could be applied to the element to fully assess the implication of animal fighting as part of the festival. In this regard, it wished to give China the opportunity to share more information on the use of living animals.
568.The delegation of Peru reminded the Committee that its decisions were observed worldwide and would remain so for a very long time. It agreed with the Subsidiary Body that the element was a very sensitive, important, beautiful, and meaningful expression. However, the nomination did not explain the true nature of these animal ‘fights’, as was clearly written in the file, which had a connotation of violence. Unfortunately, the file did not explain how the fights occurred, and whether there was death or suffering, or even symbolism. Nevertheless, even if the expression represented cultural symbolism, it must be recalled that intangible cultural heritage in the Convention, not specifically for the people of Yi, must be respectful of the sensitivities of communities and sustainable development. Thus, this was not a simple matter of a missing detail, but rather a greater reflection on this issue in order to act with full knowledge of the element, which was why a referral was recommended. Moreover, the Committee’s work was not about pleasing States Parties in the moment, but working towards a future for the sake of intangible cultural heritage of humanity, which was extremely important. The delegation spoke about the Committee’s responsibility, adding that it wished no harm to the people of Yi or China to ask for additional information. It also suggested that the Secretariat create a working group to look into the aspect of animal cruelty for entertainment purposes, adding that, based on the information in the file, the fights were not a ritual sacrifice, or for food, but for entertainment.
569.The delegation of Afghanistan remarked that the essential points were already mentioned by Brazil, adding it would be easy to make a decision about the animal fights if they were central to the festival rather than part of a set of rituals. The delegation wondered whether the Torch festival was greater and deeper than this sole aspect, presenting a different vision of life, for which China was well known. Moreover, rural China might have a specific vision inherited from a state of harmony or Confucius with its own way of presenting these aspects of life. The delegation therefore sought greater clarification from China.
570.Having carefully reviewed the file, the delegation of Egypt agreed with Brazil that the Committee should hear the clarifications from China, bearing in mind however the concerns of the Subsidiary Body. It believed that it was very dangerous to apply one’s cultural principles to other cultures under the pretence of respecting cultures and traditions. After all, the Convention called for the respect of all cultures. Moreover, as scientific research and the process of implementation of the Convention were concerned, one cannot distinguish or remove an element from its context. It would be very difficult to examine an element without due consideration for its context and the cultural meaning it provided to the local community. The delegation noted that the Committee should not tolerate cruelty towards animals for entertainment purposes. However, was violence or cruelty towards animals acceptable on other grounds? Thus, if it is unacceptable for entertainment purposes then it must be unacceptable in other contexts or for other purposes. The delegation further remarked that humans and animals had a very long and complex cultural, social and economic relationship, adding that in many cultures they figured in tales, legends and myths, as well as in cultural and social practices in various civilizations. This relationship was therefore often present in intangible cultural heritage, and as such the delegation requested an opportunity for China to clarify these issues.
571.The delegation of India remarked that the nomination was very interesting as it proposed a millennia-old tradition in rural China where animals played an integral part of the festival. It was of the understanding that the animals were displaying their raw strength and skills, and the practice did not entail the killing of animals. It further remarked that for religious purposes, as a vegetarian, should everybody stop eating meat if it entailed cruelty to animals? Thus, the nomination should be looked at in a broader perspective. Moreover, except for the use of animals, the State Party had satisfied all the criteria. The delegation therefore requested that the State Party elaborate on the use of animals during the festival.
572.The delegation of Algeria remarked that it had attentively read the nomination and the findings of the Subsidiary Body, and wished to hear China express its position on the issue of animal fighting. More generally, it supported Peru’s remarks in asking that the Committee and the Secretariat organize a meeting in order to discuss this sensitive issue and sustainable development, adding that it was known that sacrifices were an anthropological subject that implied symbolic events that was part of intangible heritage. However it was important to discuss this in the context of the Convention during the working group meeting.
573.The delegation of Turkey also read the file very carefully and believed that the statement by Brazil had merit and should not be disregarded. Every nation, every civilization had age-old rituals and practices, and one standard cannot be implemented for all. Nevertheless, it understood that animal cruelty or systematic violence in a cultural practice was an important concern for the entire international community. It therefore wished to learn more from China and if there were certain measures on the part of the government, local authorities or non-governmental institutions to refrain from any intentional cruelty against the animals, while continuing to practice these rituals. It was also important to note that the animal fights only constituted a small part of the entire ritual and festivities, and thus it could not sacrifice an important part of the cultural life of the community, and that the Committee should be cautious in establishing precedence on that issue.
574.The delegation of Saint Lucia remarked that some disturbing statements had compelled it to speak, adding that it was uncomfortable to hear of accusations against the Subsidiary Body or Members of the Committee that they carried value judgments on the element. The delegation recalled that there was no value judgment on the element, and that everyone recognized that the element was of great interest, an old civilization with ancient rituals. Moreover, nobody was trying to impose civilization standards on another civilization. This was absolutely not the issue. The delegation explained that the issue lay in what the Committee could and could not promote internationally, adding that there were many elements that have not yet been submitted that might cause the same kind of problems for UNESCO, particularly as an international organization. For this reason, it was important to fully reflect on the elements inscribed on the international list. The delegation therefore supported the statements made by Peru in seeking more information so as to be very clear on what the practice entailed. The delegation also believed that the working group should consider other issues such as gender and other problematic themes. It concluded by recognizing the Committee’s respect for the element and for the bearer community, but that there were also issues that could not be put on an international list.
575.The delegation of Tunisia considered it natural to expect an element to be in line with the international conventions. However, it believed that there was a problem of interpretation, not only of this element but also in a number of other elements, questioning whether it was the responsibility of the submitting State or those evaluating the element. It was therefore appropriate to ask China for some clarification, in support of the request made by Peru.
576.As Chairperson of the Subsidiary Body, the delegation of Nigeria was reluctant to speak, recalling the intense debates about this issue, adding that the boundaries of what was acceptable was indistinct. The delegation spoke of a place in Nigeria where they ate dog meat, which was considered a local delicacy, even though many people would consider killing dogs as barbaric. There was therefore a fine line between killing dogs, which is considered a delicacy, and animal fights, and thus it was important to approach the issue with caution. It believed that more debate was needed on this issue. Moreover, it was important to note that the file was not rejected, but referred for more information.
577.The Chairperson invited China to respond to the concerns raised.
578.The delegation of China referred to criterion R.1 related to the respect for the sensitivities of diverse communities and sustainable development. The Yi ethnic group is a minority group with a time-honoured writing system and a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and animal husbandry. The Torch Festival is a 3-day festival that features various kinds of folkloric activities, including sacrificing to the fire, playing with the fire, and sending off the fire. Each and every activity includes the participation of animals during the three days, and is an integral part of the ritualized practice as a whole. The Yi people have always shown respect for the protection of animals. In their worldview, humans and animals are both progeny of snow, meaning that they are brothers and equal in origin. The Torch Festival was not only for the people but for animals as well. The animal contest was just one way in which the animals participate, which was reflected in section 1(v) of the nomination form. The Torch Festival originated from the legend about the competition between the heaven god and the earth goddess. It was also regarded as a strength contest between yin and yang. The vivid description of this legend can be found in the film of the free, prior consent of the communities. The delegation explained that the wrestling and horse racing, the beauty contest, the endurance contest between bulls, and the horns contest between rams were an imitation of the change of nature with profound ritual connotations, and was not for the purpose of entertainment, and were carried out under traditional rules. The contest between animals was not only the reflection of the spirit of the animals, but also a special way for people to appreciate and respect the life of animals. In addition, the Torch Festival takes place during the time of great heat in the region when bulls and rams suffer great pain due to parasites. They mitigate the pain by killing the parasites by chasing and horn-heading one another. Thus, the health of animals and the driving away of pests during the Torch Festival were based on folk knowledge, wisdom and experience that respected the life and the quality of the animals in the development of animal husbandry. The contests not only enhanced the health of the animals they also encouraged the communities to improve production, passing down the knowledge of animal husbandry, this was reflected in the film submitted with the nomination file. The delegation therefore believed the animals had a profound understanding of their relationship with humans and its unique space for dialogue, adding that it was compatible with the requirement of respect for the sensitivities of diverse communities and sustainable development.
579.The delegation of China then referred to the question of how the components of the festival involving living animals could encourage dialogue among communities. It wished to state that the Torch Festival consisted of a series of ritualized activities. The contest between animals, livestock in particular, during the Torch Festival did not involve any violent use of animals. Instead it had a profound symbolic meaning and special social and cultural functions. The Yi people make a living through farming and animal husbandry and since ancient times, they have become attentive to livestock and treat them equally as family members. The involvement of animals thus reflected vividly the Yi’s philosophy for harmonious coexistence of humans and animals, as well as the delight of humans and gods, and all living beings during the Torch Festival. It was by no means of source of entertainment from animals. In section 1(v) of the nomination form, a quote of the Yi folk song clearly reflected the Yi philosophy of equality and collective participation in the festival and harmony between nature and communities. The animal contests on the second day of the Torch Festival are the imitation of the change of nature. These contests are governed by traditional contest rules and folkloric animal ethics carried out under surveillance throughout the performance where neither humans nor animals are wounded. Section (d) of the nomination form mentioned that many other ethnic groups in southwest China also celebrate the festival. They have different religious beliefs, culture and language and so far no sensitivity issues or objections have been raised. The delegation reiterated that the animal contests did not involve violent use of animals for entertainment nor did they provoke objections among communities. The festival played a distinctive role in maintaining ethnic identity, enhancing social harmony, and promoting cultural exchange among local communities and groups in response to their environment. The delegation also wished to emphasize that due to the word limitation in the nomination form, it was not possible to fully explain the animal contests, which was only a small component of the festival, while neglecting the main theme that is the sacrifice to the fire. It hoped that the Committee would focus on the fundamental attributions and integrity of the ritual practice of the festival, adding that animal contests should not be judged as a violent use of animals for entertainment purposes. Nevertheless, it fully understood the concerns expressed by the Committee, and regretted the use of ‘animal fights’ that caused confusion, adding that it also came about because of difficulties in translation and differences in cultures. The delegation invited the expert on the Yi festival to explain the word ‘fight’ in the original language of the Yi people.
580.The representative of the Yi people was from the Liangshan 凉山 (‘Cool Mountain’) region of Sichuan Province. She admitted that cross-lingual translation was difficult and one of the main language obstacles in the nomination files. She cited the Chinese word for ‘fight’ in expressions such as ‘bullfight’, ‘ram fight’ and ‘cock fight’, explaining that they did not exist in various Yi dictionaries, and that ‘fight’ as cited in the nomination form originated from the literal translation of the Chinese character ‘do’. The verbal usage of ‘animal contests’ in the Yi language is a specific verb stemming from traditional contests, which strictly indicated a contest of stamina and raw force featuring animals. Considering the word limit in the form, it was therefore considered impractical to interpret the fine differences in the verb usage. Moreover, it was difficult to find a comprehensive word in translating the Yi language from Chinese and English to describe these three contests. The verb ‘fight’ in Yi language therefore did not match its usage in English. A more accurate translation in English could be ‘contests of strength’, which has an essential difference compared to the notion of a true fight. The representative believed that such culture translations like this presented challenges, and thus it was reasonable to make allowances for these difficulties.
581.The delegation of China also wished to draw attention to the erroneous description of the element in the draft decision, which made reference to epic folksongs and ballads that are performed on traditional flutes and other instruments in the Torch Festival. It was noted that there was no such mention of epic folksongs and ballads in the nomination file. According to the Yi tradition, the practices of instruments, epics and poems were independent. The epics were only practised at weddings and funerals, and rituals for sending out the soul of the dead. It therefore wished to draw the Committee’s attention to the wrong message in the description of the element.
582.The delegation of Brazil thanked Saint Lucia for its statement, adding that it wished to clarify Brazil’s position. The delegation appreciated the work of the Subsidiary Body and its report, which provided useful orientations for the future. It took into consideration that the Subsidiary Body’s report had stressed that an element submitted for inscription had to be very clearly described in criterion R.1 so that criterion R.2 could be appropriately met. Having talked to the Chinese delegation, and listened to the explanations, it was sure that these clarifications described the values of the Chinese people, which could be difficult to judge in light of one’s own values. In addition, it was convinced that language difficulties had led to a misinterpretation of the true meaning of the animal participation in this festival. Thus, the explanations provided by China gave a clearer indication of the element to better analyse the nomination file.
583.The Chairperson then turned to the adoption of the draft decision on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. With no comments or amendments in paragraph 1, it was duly adopted.
584.The delegation of Brazil remarked that it had presented the amendments to the decision to the Secretariat, which were projected on the screen. It wished to emphasize that these amendments were not intended as a criticism, adding that it sought to debate ideas and was not in any way personal. The delegation felt that it was important to discuss ideas so as to determine what was anthropologically and scientifically correct. It spoke about modern civilization and a world where people eat steak, wear leather shoes, and take medicines that use animals in research in the belief that this was kind to animals because we did not see what happened to them. Moreover, some traditional cultures had a more direct contact with animals and a different relationship with animals, which is often more respectful than in modern cultures. Thus, care should be taken whenever one was compelled to impose one’s own values. Hence, Brazil’s amendments reflected the notion of debating ideas among a Committee of experts.
585.The Chairperson invited the Secretary to read out the amendment to R.1 in paragraph 2.
586.The Secretary presented the proposed amendment in R.1, paragraph 2, which read: ‘The Torch festival includes different cultural expressions and practices transmitted from generation to generation, and is part of the cultural identity of the Yi communities; it is compatible with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.’
587.The Chairperson invited the Committee to show its support for the proposed amendment. It was noted that the amendment did not receive broad support, and was thus rejected.
588.The delegations of India and Kyrgyzstan supported Brazil’s amendment.
589.The Chairperson remarked that the decision had already been adopted and thus moved to the second amendment proposed by Brazil in R.2.