Our Burning Planet

THE MATTER OF A HORN

Dominee hunter who said ‘ek het ‘n horing gekry’ shooting buck loses defamation case against SPCA

Dominee hunter who said ‘ek het ‘n horing gekry’ shooting buck loses defamation case against SPCA
The Facebook image featuring a presumably dead antelope and Dominee Mark le Roux. (Source: Daily Maverick)

Dominee Mark le Roux propped a dead buck over his steering wheel, himself on the roof playing dead, and implied killing it gave him ‘a horn’. When an SPCA inspector called him out for disrespecting the animal, the dominee sued for defamation. He lost with costs.

It may have been Dominee Mark le Roux’s bad luck to find his case against SPCA inspector Jaco Pieterse unfolding beneath the steely gaze of magistrate Katlego Mokoena in the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court. In finding his claim to have no merits, she described the case as being about bruised male egos.

It was essentially a war of Facebook posts. In her judgment, after viewing a case spanning several years, one can almost hear Mokoena sigh as she quotes the lyrics of the late rapper AKA’s Run Jozi: “Next thing you know your career is over ntwana, over some characters, it’s the juxtaposition of choosing stupidity over intelligence.”

The image that started the trouble was of a bloody antelope – presumably dead – propped at the steering wheel of a bakkie. Draped on the roof with his tongue out, pretending to be dead, was Dominee Mark le Roux, who also serves on the Ethics Committee of the SA Medical Association.

Above the image – and this is what riled SPCA inspector Jaco Pieterse – were the words (translated from Afrikaans): “I killed my first buck on my deceased uncle’s farm first shot, Veldfokus style. Am I now a real man? Am I embarrassed that it gave me an erection [horing gekry]? Did I cry because it was my first time? Can I avoid the first-buck-tradition of eating its testicles? Can I wear the shirt again? The answer is no.”

Pieterse responded: “This post hit a nerve. Who in their right mind makes a mockery of a dead animal? There is nothing the SPCA can do about hunting as it is not illegal. The majority of people eat meat and animals are killed … in abattoirs – this is not in dispute or an issue here.

“The issue is that a person will make a mockery of a dead animal he hunted by draping the carcass behind a steering wheel just for an added bit of fun and laughter. The only conclusion I can make is that a person that acts in this manner clearly has psychological issues and needs urgent intervention.”

When Pieterse raised his concerns with Le Roux, he was told, “vlieg in jou moer in”, effectively “fuck off, and blocked. They had formerly been Facebook friends. Le Roux took offence at Pieterse’s post and took him to court, alleging defamation and reputational damage in the amount of R200,000.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Pretoria dominee claims defamation after posting ‘mocking’ photo and comments about antelope he hunted

He alleged that he suffered a career setback as a result of Pieterse’s comment. He was not invited back to preach at his church, he claimed, and also that he lost the trust and admiration of a sector of the LGBTQ community he was proud to administer to.

In court, much of the evidence presented and contested involved Facebook posts, their retraction, reinstatement, wording and intention. Also under the spotlight were reactions to the posts.

One response, referring to Le Roux’s actions, stated “he has serious psychological problems and should see a specialist. But if it was down to me I would put a bullet in the sick bastard’s head.” Someone responded: “Don’t waste a bullet, throw him to crocs.”

Pieterse’s counsel, advocate Quintin Steyn, asked Le Roux, who has a Master’s degree in theology (but denied being an expert on theology), what the theological view would be on depicting a dead animal in such a way while making such statements. 

Le Roux countered that it was not relevant to the case, but Steyn disagreed, saying Le Roux had entered his CV into the court records so his religion was part of his plea, and that the post had caused reputational harm involving requests to preach. Le Roux responded he could not comment further other than to say that “the Lord gives us control of the animals to take care of”.

On cross-examination, it was put to him that he should have anticipated that his post and admission of arousal at the act of killing would invoke a public outcry and that his deeds and words would be considered to be in extremely poor taste – not least of all by an SPCA inspector whose job it is to ensure that society fosters a healthy respect for all creatures, and definitely not to use sexual innuendo at the expense of an animal’s dignity.

Steyn defended his client’s post on the basis of animal cruelty and freedom of speech, reminding the court that as the Constitutional Court recognises the sentience of all animals, all members of society bear a responsibility to uphold standards of animal welfare and to recognise the dignity of all animals.

“As someone who took an oath of office to protect and speak up for animals, I felt it was my duty to stand up and say something. The remainder of my honest opinion and comments on what I said is available to the public and court records is public knowledge. To prevent any further accusations towards myself, any public member is welcome to read the court records,” commented Pieterse.

The court found in Pieterse’s favour, dismissing Le Roux’s case and awarding costs to Pieterse, which also included that of his legal team and counsel. The judgment is available here

On hearing the judgment, Pieterse commented: “This was a win for animal welfare and for the dignity of all animals.” DM

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