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Ethical Animal Slaughter During Eid

5 September, 2016
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With one week to go before Eid Al-Adha, the meat market is thriving, and portions of meat are being distributed among the poor as part of the charity efforts that are encouraged at this time of year. Yet the streets and markets of Egypt during that period are constantly tainted with animal welfare violations.

Slaughter in the street is already illegal, with a fine of EGP 5,000, but it is rarely enforced. This may change this year: the Mayor of the Red Sea governorate announced that the fine will increase to EGP 50,000.

The problem begins with transportation: cattle are transported with the most inhumane methods. In one example, sheep were shut into car trunks for the duration of the journey. Secondly, inexperienced people slaughter the sheep themselves when they do not know where the jugular, the key artery is, so the poor animal remains alive during multiple attempts with the knife. "People think that they will be much more pious this way," said Amina Abaza, founder of the Society to Protect Animal Rights in Egypt (SPARE). If they have to slaughter they have to ask an expert to kill the animal. The pain would be for a few minutes instead of lasting for a whole half hour, said Abaza.

"A friend of mine was telling me that she was slaughtering the sheep without knowing how to do it, and she told me that the poor sheep was urinating because he was so scared," Abaza recalls.

Another violation which is all too common amongst people- even butchers, is slaughtering an animal in front of other animals, who then witness the death. The next animal sees and smells blood, which induces fear in the animal.

"This is traumatizing to the animal because animals know what death is," Abaza said, telling the story of how her friend's sheep, on seeing another one being slaughtered before his eyes, jumped from the building's rooftop.

Viewing another fellow sheep being taken to its end is also bad for human health, because a scared animal produces adrenaline which is then consumed by humans in the meat. This is thought to contribute to health problems such as cardiac problems, impotency and fatigue. Not only this, but informal slaughter, with the blood that gets spilled in public areas, presents a major hygiene risk for the community. 

When it comes to slaughter, Islamic recommendations follow particular ethics devised around preventing as much distress as possible. The knife ought to be sharp, and the kill itself should be quick. People should never kill an animal before the other, and the animals should be offered water before they are killed. Yet although most Egyptians consider themselves religious, very few people follow this way of slaughter, Abaza claimed.

Through working with Animals Australia, in 2013 SPARE stopped Australia from exporting their sheep after watching how their animals are treated in the Egyptian abattoirs. "It was a big scandal," Abaza stated.

The mistreatment of animals is a result of both cruelty and lack of education, but Abaza believes it cannot be denied that there remains enormous amounts of animal cruelty in Egypt. SPARE conducts social media campaigns for awareness, but progress is slow. "We have to repeat and repeat each year before Eid," asserted Abaza.

Image: udeyismail // CC BY 2.0

Tags MENA Because NGO social enterprise CSR volunteering animal welfare Eid al-Adha halal slaughter SPARE