Must a festival be celebrated only by killing?
Even if it must, let there be some rules and regulations in place, especially with respect to public health and hygiene.
It is that time of the year when millions of Muslims all over the world slaughter animals on their holy festival of Eid-Al-Adha.
Reports in the recent past of streets and roads turning red with blood of goats, sheep, cows and camels on the day of festival have upset compassionate citizens.
Then there is a grave issue of children being exposed to blood-curdling sights of mass animal slaughter, which can be traumatizing.
Slaughter of animals in public places with carcasses left to rot in the open and blood getting discharged into the drainage system and the threat of it being mixed with in the public water supply system has a public health emergency written all over it.
Last year, to the horror of residents of Moradabad, the blood of animals slaughtered on Eid got mixed up in the city corporation water supply pipeline and was supplied to homes through tap water. Such incidents create an environment of fear and trepidation and mar the festivities.
The Indian State is finally waking up to the challenges posed by Bakrid (as Eid-Al-Adha is popularly known in India) celebrations.
On 8 August, the Yamuna pollution monitoring committee instructed New Delhi’s municipal committees to ensure that the blood of animals slaughtered on Eid doesn’t flow into the Yamuna. Similar orders were issued by the National Green Tribunal in 2015. However, civil agencies in the national capital have been slow to act.
On 6 August 2019, the Bombay High Court outlawed the slaughter of goat or sheep within residential individual flats. Regarding housing societies, it held that no permissions for slaughter should be granted by the municipality “if the applicant society is located within a reasonable one-kilometre walking distance from a community space for slaughtering.”
Previous Eid, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had instructed officials to not allow slaughter of animals in public places or areas with mixed population and ensure that blood and offal is not dumped in open drains. A similar order was passed by the Uttarakhand High court last year.
While these recent developments in different states are welcome, India has a long way to go before it can reach international standards when it comes to regulating animal slaughter on Eid.
The Indian State needs to get its act together and learn to not just make laws that prohibit slaughter in open and have stringent punishments in place for offenders, but also make sure that it has enough resolve as well as state capacity to ensure that those regulations are implemented in letter and spirit. Even Islamic countries fare better than India on this front.
In Abu Dhabi, the city municipal committee has mandated a fine of 5,000 Dirhams ( Rs 1 lakh) for those caught slaughtering animals in homes, public parks or other places apart from the municipal abattoirs. In the slaughterhouses, veterinarians monitor the sacrifices before and after the slaughter, making sure that meat is fit for consumption. Special iceboxes are provided for keeping meats to ensure proper transiting of meats and carcasses.
“Slaughtering of sacrificial animals inside the approved slaughterhouses ensures that their meat is fit for human consumption and public health is maintained. There are potential diseases associated with the slaughtering of animals in homes or makeshift places and environmental pollution,” the director of the department of public health at the Abu Dhabi Municipality told Khaleej Times.
In Sharjah, government inspectors from various departments such as public health, safety, and inspection conduct surprise visits to restaurants, public kitchens and shops to ensure that they comply with regulations. An official at the Umm Al Quwain Municipality informs that the municipality has “run several awareness campaigns to keep an eye on all livestock barns to ensure their safety and none of them is infected with contagious diseases.”
In Egypt, after blood of lambs ran through the streets last year in Cairo, its Governorate has decided to impose a fine of EGP 5,000 this time on anyone who slaughters their sacrificial animals in streets. According to a top province official, the government was taking this step “to preserve infrastructure, public hygiene, and eliminating the environmental harm caused by performing the ritual in the streets.” The Egyptian government has been trying to curb animal slaughter in the open for many years now.
Last year, an adviser to the Grand Mufti supported the government’s moves and reasoned that, ”Islam is a religion of civilization, cleanliness, and beauty; this religion never called for an action that would hurt other people and harm public interest.”
Even in Bangladesh, which has earned notoriety for turning streets red with blood on day of Eid, cities are working to manage the festival better. This year, the Chittagong City Corporation has identified 370 spots in the city for sacrificial animal slaughter and is running a mass awareness campaign urging the residents to use only the designated spots for slaughter to keep the city clean.
In addition, it has assigned over 5,000 cleaners to manage the animal waste and their disposal. Bangladesh government is also working with city corporations in Dhaka to ensure that animals are slaughtered only at 24 designated places in the city and waste is disposed of properly.
European countries have much tougher laws. The French government has warned time and again against slaughter anywhere outside an approved abattoir. Those found violating the law are punishable with a fine of 15,000 euros and six months imprisonment.
In fact, last year, the European Union’s top court ruled last year that animal slaughter without stunning (as is the case with Halal and Kosher) can only take place in approved abattoirs.
Earlier this year, Belgium joined the ranks of the likes of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia in banning the practice of ritual slaughter (both halal and kosher).
The ideal thing for India to do is follow the Belgian example and allow only humane ways of slaughtering animals (stunning them before butchering). But even if an exemption is made for ritual slaughter and for festivals like Bakr-Eid, they must be restricted to licensed abattoirs which strictly adhere to state regulations regarding public health, hygiene, waste disposal, et cetera.
But above all, the Muslim community should introspect on how to celebrate Eid in a more humane way and move away from the need to slaughter animals. Many Muslims around the world are already doing it. In a video released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) yesterday (11 August), many vegan and vegetarian Muslims shared more kinder ways to observe their holy festival.
Sammer Hakim, who has co-founded The Muslim Vegan Initiative, says that ‘killing so many animals…at a time when this very act is directly contributing to so many critical environmental issues is highly irresponsible.’
After all, Eid-Al-Adha is a celebration of Abraham’s devotion to Allah.
The story goes that Allah asked Abraham to slay his only son, Ishmael who was his dearest possession. Satan tried to stop Abraham in executing this endeavour but he pelted stones at Satan and drove him away. Just when Abraham was about to slit his son’s throat, he was stopped by Allah as his devotion was proven beyond doubt. A goat was slaughtered instead.
The festival is essentially about showing devotion to God by not hesitating about giving up something that is dear to followers rather than sacrificing innocent animals which are bought of the shelf in the market. That would be the real test of piety.