A video of a woman rubbing people down with a screeching guinea pig and sticking the helpless animal’s nose into people’s nostrils is making the rounds on the internet.
In the 21st century, it’s baffling that this has to be said in any context, but rubbing a person with a squirming guinea pig doesn’t cure any aliments—it’s just plain cruel.
The ritual is a popular medicinal practice called shoqma, and it’s performed by “healers” who live in the Andes Mountains region of Peru. After violating a patient and tormenting a without-a-doubt-confused guinea pig, the healer subsequently slits the small animal’s throat as a sacrifice.
After the guinea pig is killed, the folk doctor examines the animal’s organs for any ailments he or she has supposedly absorbed. These sicknesses can be physiological or spiritual in nature.
Yup, let that all sink in.
Regardless of the culture in which it occurs, “tradition” is never a justification for cruelty.
Whether it’s torturing and killing bulls in Spanish bullfights or slaughtering animals raised on terrifying factory farms to eat them, people have often tried to use tradition as a justification for inexcusable practices.
In this day and age, people don’t need to hurt animals in order to survive, and once we know better, we should do better. Within any culture, there are always those who want reform, and it’s bigoted to assume that a culture cannot change because its people are “ignorant” or “primitive.”
Break Tradition Today
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. Throughout history, prejudice, traditions, and cultural norms have been used as excuses to deny others rights based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and species. But as our empathy grows, the barriers to extending rights to all sentient beings, regardless of their differences, will crumble.