Despite being a longstanding tradition in the Muslim world, Eid al-Adha sparks outrage among animal rights activists who decry the treatment of animals during the holiday as barbaric.
The Quranic story behind the holiday is awarded legitimacy in all three Abrahamic religions. However, only Muslims celebrate this tradition as a holiday.
The Muslim holiday is heralded as one of the most beautiful, exciting, and joyous occasions in the world. In Morocco, foreigners consider themselves lucky if they are able to experience it firsthand.
However, the longstanding tradition of sacrificing an animal to celebrate the mercy of God has been met with conflict in recent years as animal welfare activism becomes more widespread.
One might assume that the hostility towards the festivities of Eid al-Adha primarily comes from the West, where ethnocentrism and racism tend to criminalize anything related to Islam and the people of color who practice it.
Read Also: Eid Al Adha: Celebration Without Borders
Years ago, this would have been a correct assumption. However, Muslims have also begun disavowing the tradition of animal sacrifice as outdated, unnecessary, and inhumane.
Muslim scholars and activists around the world are denouncing the animal sacrifices of Eid al-Adha and the festival’s position within the larger framework of “halal hyprocrisy.”
Killing animals for food and other resources is permissible in Islam but must be done in a humane manner, in accordance with Islamic law. Halal slaughter should minimize the suffering of the animals in question.
Adhering to an ethical method of slaughter, however, does not exempt Muslims from perpetuating the suffering of animals.
In a USA Today feature, Mohammed Ghilan, a student of Islamic jurisprudence, points out the Muslim hypocrisy of stressing halal meat while “contributing to the non-halal slaughter by consuming dairy and other animal derivatives.”
“How are you going to explain to Allah on the day of judgement your decision to support a system that is inherently cruel and violates the rights of animals?” asks Medium contributer Gabriel Abraham in a discussion of the meat, egg, and dairy industries.
In the modern capitalistic world, the living conditions of the animals being sacrificed for Eid are not always on par with Islamic standards.
“The ways in which cows, sheep, goats and other animals are raised, handled, transported and slaughtered for food are inherently cruel,” argues PETA, the largest animal rights organization in the world.
Animals in Islam (AII), an informative animal welfare website run by Islamic scholars, also condemns the Westernized factory-farming methods that have tarnished the halal meat industry.
“Currently, the high Islamic standard of compassion to animals is often violated by those who provide sacrificial animals,” according to one of the website’s scholarly articles on Eid al Adha.
“These days, the numbers of animals needed [for Eid] are so high that the majority are imported from New Zealand and other countries,” another AII article states. “These animals are shipped in brutally overcrowded conditions where large percentages regularly die from disease, being trampled, or heat exhaustion.”
“This is not humane. This is not halal. And we can’t ignore this reality.”
Tradition, family, and charity
Despite the debate about animal welfare that is triggered by such a large-scale slaughter, the point of Eid al-Adha for many Muslims is not to celebrate the death of animals.
“Eid is a day of happiness and gathering. It symbolizes love, family, and helping others,” Mohammed, 57, told MWN. “Everything we do is for God.”
Mohammed added that he personally cannot bear to kill the sheep himself, nor can his two adult sons. Fearing that a slip-up would cause the sheep pain, the family prefers to have a professional butcher stop by to do the deed. Many other families also elect this method, although traditionally the animal’s throat is cut by the man of the house.
For Mohammed and many other Muslims, the joys of the holiday have very little to do with the physical act of sacrifice. The symbolic significance of the sacrifice is lost on no one, but killing— no matter how painless or ethical it may be—does not come easily to all.
For SFT Animal Sanctuary in Tangier, Eid al-Adha is primarily about charity.
“We at SFT help the poor everyday, because that’s what humanity is about,” reads a Facebook post from SFT’s official account. “We would never sacrifice a sheep because to us they are just as precious as any living being.”
“I believe, and I am sure, that getting close to God is not done with blood, murder, and violence but with humanity, charity, love, and mercy,” adds a post in Arabic by SFT Tangier’s Projet Hayat.
Whatever one’s personal position may be, the conversations surrounding the animal sacrifices of Eid al-Adha present a critical opportunity for self-reflection.
Especially in Morocco, where strays, pets, and working animals are regularly neglected and abused, discussions of ethics must also incorporate the animals not being consumed for food. During the holiday, families should consider where their sheep came from and if it has been raised in accordance with sharia. And those who classify Muslims as primitive and barbaric for partaking in animal sacrifice must take a look at their own eating habits.
Morocco World News wishes a blessed Eid to all.