The Siraya Cultural Association yesterday demanded an apology from the Ministry of Education after officials said an image depicting a Siraya hunter represented violence and that it could trigger protest from animal rights activists.
“This is too much! These comments by a Ministry of Education official exposed the ignorance of the nation’s highest education authority,” Siraya Cultural Association spokeswoman Uma Talavan said in a telephone interview with the Taipei Times. “We demand that the ministry apologize. Otherwise, we will coordinate with other Aboriginal tribes to organize a protest, because the culture of hunting is not unique to Siraya.”
Talavan said she was upset because ministry officials had asked the city government to change the design on the cover of a booklet for a nationwide educators’ conference to be held in the city next month.
The original design included the image of a Siraya Aboriginal hunter with a bow in one hand and a quiver of arrows on his back, chasing deer.
While the Greater Tainan Government’s Bureau of Education said it used the image to represent the ancient culture of the city, the ministry had a different view. An unnamed ministry official was quoted by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) as saying that the image was too “violent,” while ministry official Huang Tzu-teng (黃子騰) was quoted as saying that an image of deer hunting could trigger protests by animal rights activists.
Talavan said the comments were unacceptable.
“Hunting is a sacred activity for the Siraya. A young man must go through a strict training process before becoming a qualified hunter,” she said. “When a man is allowed to hold a bow and arrow, he is not only a hunter, but a defender of his village.”
Talavan said that preserving ecology was also central to a Siraya hunter’s education.
“A Siraya hunter only hunts what is necessary, never extra,” she said. “And it is taboo to hunt during the breeding season.”
“If the country’s highest education authority is so ignorant, how could they teach students to respect cultural diversity?” she asked.
Meanwhile, animal rights advocacy groups said they had no problem with the image.
“It’s really no big deal, because it’s something that existed historically. It’s part of the local culture and history,” said Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳), executive director of Life Conservationist Association’s Monitoring Committee for Animal Protection, and a native of Tainan.
Environmental and Animal Society Taiwan chairman Thomas Chan (詹順貴) agreed.
“[The image] is really not a problem, because it’s a display of traditional Aboriginal culture,” he said. “Animal rights advocacy groups promote humane slaughter of farmed animals, and are against animal abuse — not how people used to live in the past.”
“We should always respect history and culture,” he said.