Do not be merciless this Eid, please!

Published: October 27, 2012
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A teenager hugs his goat at a livestock market. PHOTO: AFP

Sacrificial animals decorated with colorful ribbons are displayed for sale at a livestock market. PHOTO: AFP A teenager hugs his goat at a livestock market. PHOTO: AFP A child plays with sheep at a sacrificial livestock market ahead of the Muslim festival Eidul Azha in Lahore. PHOTO: AFP

Have Pakistanis forgotten the principle behind Eidul Azha? This supposed feast of sacrifice, popularly known as Bakra Eid in our nation, is where Muslims are meant to pay symbolic tribute to Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on the command of Allah (SWT).

During this annual three-day Islamic holiday, Muslims who earn a good enough living, follow Prophet Abraham’s example by committing a fraction of their wealth to the sacrifice of livestock. The meat gained, of course, is divided into three portions, one of which is supposed to go to the poor and needy. This holiday is meant to impart the practitioners of this ritual with several life lessons, but having observed this celebration for several years in Pakistan, I have noted some unfortunate practices. These are listed below.

1. Physical cruelty:

Last year there was a fiery debate on The Express Tribune, where people were either for or against the Bakra Eid sacrifices. Those who were against the sacrifices argued that it was a cruel practice to the livestock, while those who were in favour of it reminded everyone that the meat they consumed all year round comes from the same slaughter of livestock.

Yes, the meat bought outside of Eidul Azha holidays is gained through sacrifice, but the difference is that this regular meat comes from the farms where livestock is apparently killed more humanely in a controlled and more professional environment.

Feeling empathy for the animals is a natural part of the Bakra Eid tradition. When we celebrate this event and bring livestock home for the sacrifice, we form a small bond with the animals before their fateful day. The lesson is that we feel some sorrow when the animal is slaughtered, and in turn learn to treat these harmless creatures with some kindness. Do remember that we are supposed to slaughter the animals in a way that minimises their physical and psychological pain.

Eidul Azha is commercial; here part-time butchers earn a sizeable amount of money. The part-time slaughterers find work on this holiday because they charge a lower fee than others and mostly because professional butchers are occupied. Sadly, the part-timers often make mistakes which result in terribly cruel deaths to the animals.

I should know, because I worked out of the Korangi Industrial area. The hides tanneries received during Bakra Eid are the most unfortunate because of the random unnecessary holes that come from the hands of untrained butchers. I don’t need to imagine how cruel these deaths must have been, having witnessed some bad slaughters myself. I don’t need to narrate any cruel Bakra Eid incidents, since horror stories where the animals are faced with undue physical torture are commonplaceSadly, in my conversations with the part-time slaughterers, I have learned that they are unconcerned with the pain caused to the animals.

To them, it is purely business.

2. Psychological cruelty:

As a child, I was taught that if Muslims are slaughtering multiple animals, they must ensure that the sight and sound of the animal being killed is away from the animal(s) in waiting. It is simply cruel to slaughter animals in front of each other, as we do in Pakistan when we insist on turning our unprepared homes into slaughterhouses. I have heard many tales of frightened goats trying to escape the scene of a bloody slaughter in a wild panic, after watching and hearing the agony of their kind; this has become unbearable.

3. Showing off: 

Without fail, every Eid, you learn of wealthy families spending a small fortune to buy a single outrageously expensive cow, which they boast has been imported from Europe or Australia. Later, entire neighbourhoods are invited to have a look at the mooing creature (the cow, not the head of the affluent family), as they brag about how the price of the foreign animal was more than that of ten Pakistani cows.

Well, if one of the reasons animals are slaughtered in Eidul Azha is so that their meat is shared, isn’t it more reasonable for these families to buy ten Pakistani cows instead, so that that ten times the meat is distributed amongst the poor?

4. The hierarchy of meat:

It is about the same in most Pakistani households: The choicest meat portions from the sacrifice are kept for family and friends, while the poorest pieces are mixed together for distribution amongst the poor.

If the traditional practice states that the three portions should be divided equally amongst family, friends and neighbours, and the impoverished, then logic dictates that the meat should be mixed up regardless of quality, should it not?

5. The war-zone effect: 

During Eidul Azha many streets of Pakistan resemble a battleground.  With the street-cleaners having also taken a holiday, the roads are bathed in blood, leftover animal carcasses can be seen outside of homes, and the sick stench of death is in the air.

We are often very quick to blame the government, but perhaps we should realise that our job on Bakra Eid doesn’t end with the sacrifice, but with taking care of the mess that follows. The ritual of cleanliness is an important part of Islam, yet our major concern with Eidul Azha seems to be with the glamour of it all.

 Read more by Noman here or follow him on Twitter @Pugnate

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ali

    “Yes, the meat bought outside of Eidul Azha holidays is gained through sacrifice, but the difference is that this regular meat comes from the farms where livestock is apparently killed more humanely in a controlled and more professional environment”.

    Who is the author kidding exactly :DRecommend

  • Vegetarian by choice

    hear hear!

    Islam also promotes kindness to animals as is exemplified here:

    http://islam101.net/real-tales/234-a-man-and-a-thirsty-dog.html

    Ritual sacrifice needn’t be so bloody awfulRecommend

  • Vegetarian

    Can’t sacrifice be shown in better ways…….no offence meant to religion….Even animals have life given by God……..Who r we to take life given by god??????…………

    this is 21st centuary world has changed we should show sacrifice by not taking or giving bribe………….Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    @Vegetarian: Plants also have life, who have given you the right to kill plants?Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/pugnate Noman Ansari

    Eid Mubarak to everyone. The third picture with the kid surrounded by sheep is just adorable! Recommend

  • Parvez

    Your step by step logic is great. Eid Mubarak.
    When one looks around and sees what is happening over the last 3 or 4 days regarding the sale and sacrifice of animals one is forced to consider as to how much of this is and can be correctly attributed to ones religion. My answer is not very much.Recommend

  • http://www.ghouri.com Naveed Taj Ghouri

    @Author

    First it not “Killing” is “Slaughtering” in the name of Allah which makes it Halal meat.

    If there are untrained butchers so much then raise demand to establish the slaughter training setups or workshops for people, because its such a huge market and every year this practice increasing.

    @Vegetarian
    The way God tells is best way, I wonder if u study religion, this is the way this event is, sacrificing animals and InshaAllah it will be practiced till end of world. 2nd Yes animals life is given by God, and its God Himself who allows to sacrifice them in his way, and he says that the intentions behind this sacrifice reaches to him. Its God Himself who tells us which animals are Halal to eat which are not.

    21st century or 31st, this is serious thing, religion is not what your choices and likes and dislikes are. If u don’t eat meat and do not sacrifice for the sake of poor, its yours choice. Don’t impose this nonsense vegetarianism to everyone.Recommend

  • Faisal

    The first and third point Untrained Butchers and showing off is very relevant as i witnessed today an utter display of physical cruelty with a poor camel at a place that was so shocking!! Recommend

  • Vegan

    Well, I don’t call this festival of blood and flesh Eid! This barbaric and arcane ritual has its strings attached to prehistoric times…! And has no place in civilized world. Long live PETA! Recommend

  • lone liberal

    @Vegan:
    watch glass walls paul mcartney, maybe then ull slap yourself thinking wht a fool uve made of urself writing tht dribbleRecommend

  • Vegan

    @lone liberal thanks for the compliment! Sir James Paul McCartney is a living legend and has done a great amount of work for this Nobel cause…! So, thanks again and here’s a piece of advise for you; please remove liberal…. Cause to me you’re just a lone!!!Recommend

  • doumat

    Dear @Vegetarian: even the plants have life given by God, shall we stop eating them too?? Recommend

  • Turbo Lover

    @Vegitarian: I know, let’s eat air! What? Our cars are on CNG, so we should convert too, right?Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    Its a pity that over knowledge is so limited about our Religion. In the first place how can you expect Allah to be cruel or merciless towards his creation. Such topics are written and raised to start an unnecessary diatribe on values & issues of Islam which are clearly the Edict and Orders from the Lord & Master of the Universe. Recommend

  • GhostRider

    @author
    You are certainly entitled to your opinion and I agree with most of your points but can you please tell me the humane way of sacrificing the animal? in which according to you they dont feel pain? sure you cannot because you havent asked the animal as yet. So lets move on with the way that has been told by the religion that is disrupting the main arterie. Now dont spoil our eid Recommend

  • Sane

    @Vegetarian:

    Kill humans and show mercy for animals?!! Which part of people do not eat flesh either chicken, seafood and other animals. Why to cry over sacrifice of animals by Muslims on Eid ul Azha.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd):

    100% agree what you say.Recommend

  • shuja ul islam

    there are huge differences b/w Slaughtering, killing and SACRIFICE..which is the main Point of EID ul AZHA..GOD wants our sacrifice..sacrifice of our affection and attachment we have developed with “THE ANIMAL” in course of feeding and taking care of it..sacrifce is not what is performed these days..!!Recommend

  • ovais khan

    The points author highlighted are mostly valid, but most of people will disregard such article due to lack education he never meant demean Islamic ritual but to do in a civilized way like in KSA or other educated countries slaughtering of animal should be done in slaughter house instead in every home as they are designed for such drainage of blood usually results war like situation in whole city but what i know professional butchers are far more cruel then those who own the animal so i dont agree on this pointRecommend

  • https://twitter.com/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Don’t listen to me… Read this:

    Quote
    Ḏabīḥah (ذَبِيْحَة) is the prescribed method of slaughtering all meat sources excluding fish and most sea-life per Islamic law. This method of slaughtering animals consists of using a well sharpened knife to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat, the carotid artery, wind pipe and jugular veins but leaves the spinal cord intact. The animal is positioned in order to have its blood completely drained (if size permits) and left to exsanguinate

    The head of an animal that is slaughtered using halal methods is aligned with the Qiblah. In addition to the direction, permitted animals should be slaughtered upon utterance of the Islamic prayer “in the name of God”.

    The meat itself contains no blood clots within the veins—giving the meat a longer shelf life. “Animals are consistently treated with mercy and respect and will be blessed with the name of God (Allah) prior to slaughter, according to Islamic Halal requirements”Recommend

  • Hareem

    @Vegetarian: I agree with you on sacrificing by not giving and taking bribe :) but we have to sacrifice animals too. some religious rituals are written in stone and have to be followed by everyone and become religious duties. They are there to set a standard and ensure that everyone is sacrificing something on their part. The kind of sacrifices you are talking about are very subjective and aren’t visible generally to society , thus they can’t be presented as a sacrifice.Recommend