(This post contains distressing images a.k.a reality)
Yesterday morning I woke up to a tonne of messages from Muslim friends and family wishing me a “happy Eid” from all over the world. Ironically, I was wearing my favourite pyjama top from David and Goliath which quotes “eat veggies not friends”.
Scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter newsfeed, I came across many ‘humorous’ memes in relation to this religious day of sacrifice. Instagram posts of the slaughtering process of livestock as well friends and family smiling happily aside their chosen “udhiya’s” too. But in reality? It’s all a little different..
Eid al-Adha is a holy day amongst the Muslim community. The day where the consumption of meat is subsequently increased amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is the festival of sacrifice (the celebration of murder). This day honours the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son as a submission to God’s command. Muslims believe that one of the main tests in Abraham’s life was to face the command of God by sacrificing his dearest possession..his son. Abraham had prepared to slaughter his son all in the name of God. As he attempted to cut his throat, it is believed that his son was left unharmed and instead Abraham found a ram which had replaced his little one. He had passed the test and showed that his love and loyalty for God was much greater than that of any other being, including his son. To this day, all Muslims around the world celebrate this event by sacrificing goats, sheep, rams, cows or camels.
The process begins months before the holy day. Cattle are bred and well fed to be sold. This annual tradition is practiced in many ways, with some people preferring to perform the ritual themselves whilst others opt to donate the money to a charity organisation that handles the slaughter from A to Z. Firstly, this sacrifice is a Sunna. This means that it is not obligatory but preferred. Secondly, the animal “must not suffer during the process”. (No comment).
The Udhiya (animal chosen for sacrifice) must meet certain criteria and standards before being slaughtered or sold. In order to be labelled as halal and subsequently be accepted as a sacrifice to God the following regulations must be fulfilled:
- The person in charge of the killing must say “Bismillah” (in the name of God) before the slaughter
- The knife must be very sharp for a quick and “painless” death
- The animal must not see the knife (their eyes are usually wrapped with a cloth)
- The animal must face the Qiblah (holy site for Muslims)
- The butcher must cut fast and deep into the arteries to “minimise pain“
- After the slaughter, the animals blood must be left to leave the body entirely before the skin can be removed and the head is chopped off
There have been 2 occasions where I have come across this festival. The first was when I was 6 years old. I was staying with my grandma in Bursa…and that is all I can recall. My family however have a different memory. Many years later they told me that I cried the entire day because I saw and experienced the slaughter of a ram, which we then devoured. This may sound shocking to some, and it clearly was for me too, but this is very normal amongst the Muslim communities. It is seen as custom which takes place under God’s ‘command’ (desire) and therefore any emotional ties are disregarded (generally speaking). Maybe this was the reason that many years proceeding this incident I woke up and vowed NEVER to eat an animal again. Who knows..
The second recollection is much more recent and something which I will never forget. Morocco… Whilst I was living in Fes for my year abroad in 2014 we were informed about our 2 day holiday for Eid al-Adha, so my habibti April and I booked a weekend away to Barcelona. I could not bear to stay in a Muslim country during this time of the year. The day before we departed was the day before Eid. The day of preparation. I could not wait to leave. I will never forget the cries and sounds of the animals as they were pulled by their horns and legs and dragged into butchers and houses of the locals. I remember crying on my way back from school after witnessing 2 rams attempting to escape their death. They didn’t get very far. They were kicked and shoved onto a metal trolley and tied in all directions. You might not believe it but just like humans, maybe even more than some people, animals have so much emotion and intelligence. They know they’re going to be slaughtered. They fear humans…I fear humans.
Upon our return, my walk back home from the main road was filled with fresh flesh, skulls and bin bags overflowing with blood. The stench over the medina was unbearable. Eyes shut, I held my breath and ran to get inside my house as soon as possible. Right outside our door was a skull and a pile of bones. Nothing different from a horror movie. A very scarring one indeed.
Now having read the above, please read below.
Other rules include..
- Animals must be well fed and watered until they reach the stage of slaughter
- Animals must be in good health. In the case of illness they must recover before being slaughtered
- During transportation, the animals must be comfortable and must be given time to rest before their slaughter. This means that the cart shouldn’t be crowded and the animal must not be tied (funny this)
- Animals must spend at least 24 hours in their location of slaughter before their slaughter to minimise physical and psychological stress
- Animals must not see other animals being slaughtered
I fail to see the similarity between the “rules” of slaughter and the reality of the procedure. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the killings to do not abide by all of these regulations… not to mention “minimising distress and pain” which I think is a barbarity in itself.
Below is a paragraph taken from the website Egyptian Streets (an independent media organisation) which I wanted to share. Think and interpret as you wish. I do not want to comment on this, I only ask you to read and hopefully understand the message I am trying to put across.
“On a side note: religiously, the ritual of slaughtering can be done anywhere (local laws impose fines on public slaughtering), so, for the sake of the animals and for the sake of your neighbors, avoid performing this ritual sacrifice on the street and opt for a professional butcher instead. The scene of animals being slaughtered everywhere and the smell and sight of blood on the streets is very stressful for some people – not to mention unhygienic. Secondly, there is no need for the butcher to hang and parade the animals; not only is it unnecessary and unsightly, it is also unhealthy as the meat absorbs all the pollution. In many Muslim countries (including Saudi Arabia) there are special places for slaughter that are far from people and pollution. As you perform this ritual sacrifice, consider the animals and the people you are living with. After all, compassion and consideration for oneself and for others are one of Islam’s most important teachings.“
The irony is astonishing.
According to Islamic Research Foundation International, one third of the meat sacrificed is eaten by immediate family, one third is given to relatives and friends and the other third is distributed to the poor. This shows compassion between the human race towards one another and I believe the idea of feeding the poor as well as sharing with friends and family is a beautiful concept, however I strongly disapprove of the festival of mass slaughter.
Of course, this celebration is entirely based upon faith, belief and religion. Not only is this day inexplicable for vegetarians and vegans, but for non-Muslims and atheists alike. Call it whatever you like. Sacrifice, a good deed, a wish under God’s command, at the end of the day it is still a massacre even if it does have a purpose for the religious. A day of slaughter. A day of tears, pain and death. Only in the eyes of the animals of course. On the contrary humans enjoy a day filled with laughter, gifts and happiness.
By no means is this an “anti-religious” post . It is certainly not one of anti-culture or tradition. Nor is it a post of anti-Islam as some may view it to be. There are many religions which have different customs and beliefs which I also disagree with. It just happens to be a festival which I can relate to the most as I come from a Muslim family myself. This is purely a post of anti-mass slaughter of millions of animals in the name of a greater being which may or may not exist..from the eyes of an animal loving vegan. Raised into a Turkish Muslim family (with both religious and non-religious members), we celebrate many different events, get together on religious days and live our culture and origins to the full which is something I treasure and follow. Nonetheless, I fail to see this specific day as “special”, “holy” or “happy”. As mentioned previously, this is entirely my view on Eid al-Adha and undoubtedly there are just as many opposing views as there are defending views.
This is quite a controversial topic due to it’s religious and highly traditional significance, however my aim is not to create conflict and dispute. In fact, I think that this day of slaughter seems to have lost it’s religious significance amongst the more modern and Western societies and instead is seen as a custom or a social norm which is celebrated by ‘non-religious’ Muslims too.
I guess what i’m trying to put across is that the contrast between what is ‘expected’ (on a religious level) and what occurs in reality is mismatched. Once you experience Eid al-Adha in it’s full light, more so as a vegan, it is something you cannot un-see, un-live or un-derstand.