The first encounter that many Muslims across the world have with animals often comes from the celebrations of a joyous religious holiday – Eid-ul-Azha. In many Muslim countries, families purchase a goat, cow or other domesticated animal from an animal market weeks before the holiday. In some cultures, family members affectionately decorate the animal with flower necklaces, paint and colorful beads. Children often become attached to the creature stemming from the natural affinity that kids have for animals. However, when the day of Eid-ul-Azha comes, it can be a traumatic and heartbreaking experience for a child – the pet that they had lovingly bonded with is slaughtered with a sharp knife while it is fully conscious and in many cases, the slaughtering takes place on the actual grounds of the family’s home. The meat of the animal is then typically distributed three ways: one-third for oneself, one-third for friends and family and one-third for the poor.
For three days, Muslims slaughter animals in commemoration of the prophet Abraham’s (peace be upon him) willingness to sacrifice his own son for the sake of God. As Abraham was about to slay his son Ishmael (peace be upon him) which he believed came as a direct order from God, a sheep appeared before him in place of his son.
Muslims have a duty both religiously and culturally to evolve with scientific and moral progress. The meaning behind Eid-ul-Azha will always stand, but in today’s world, we must look at things practically. We must take into consideration the undeniable cruelty involved in killing millions of God’s creations, how environmentally damaging it is to raise animals for food, how unhealthy meat is for human consumption, and the lack of an actual requirement in Islam to eat meat. Muslims, especially those of us that live in the Western world, have a duty to end the animal sacrifice of Eid-ul-Azha and replace our good intentions in other ways.
We hope it is no secret now that the majority of meat in this country is produced on factory farms. Unfortunately, much of the halal meat consumed in the country also has origins from factory farms as well.
Factory farming is the practice of maximizing profit for agribusiness by minimizing costs spent on space and the general quality of life for the animals, resulting in confining animals into incredibly crowded and cramped cages in filthy conditions. Cows are often burned with hot irons and have their horns cut off, without anesthesia. Veal calves, a natural by-product of the dairy industry whose mother’s milk is consumed by humans, are deliberately kept anemic to keep their flesh pale as this is considered a delicacy, and are confined to wooden boxes their entire lives without room to lay down or fully stretch their legs. Most of these animals never see the light of day, walk on grass, or do anything natural to them their entire lives. Undercover footage has also revealed that oftentimes these animals are beaten and abused by employees and suffer through long and stressful transports. All these practices are in violation of Islamic teachings as it is unlawful (haram) to consume the flesh of an animal that has been beaten, branded or mutilated.
Factory Farming takes the lead as the worst environmentally damaging and resource wasting industry. This practice of intensively confining animals onto as small a space of land as possible causes enormous detriment to the soil and local water sources. It further necessitates the use of antibiotics in the animal feed since the animals are kept in such horrid and cramped conditions that they would die of disease if they were not given such drugs. All of this stays in the animals post slaughter – in their flesh, in the local water and of course, winds up in human bodies. Factory farming has also been cited time and time again as the worst environmental polluter above all other industries, necessitating the United Nations to publish a recent report urging the move towards vegetarian and vegan diets based on factory farming’s devastating contribution to green house gas emissions, soil erosion and contamination with industrial pollutants, water contamination and incredible waste of water above all other industries. (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/02/un-report-meat-free-diet)
In addition, U.S. law does not prohibit feeding farm animals the byproducts of the slaughterhouse industry. In 2003, 8 million metric tons of meat and bone meal, poultry byproduct meal, blood meal, and feather meal were mixed into animal feed and fed to farm animals (http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.9760). Even worse, many animals are allowed to eat the meat of their own species. (http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/impacts_industrial_agriculture/they-eat-what-the-reality-of.html) These practices are in grave violation of Islamic teachings which forbid the consumption of carnivorous animals. While it is true that some halal slaughterhouses try their best to ensure that the animals they slaughter are raised according to Islamic teachings, many are unaware of the origins of the animals that they sell to consumers, focusing instead only on the manner in which the animal is killed. (http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout&cid=1178724246679)
Eating too much eat is not good for your health either. Studies upon studies have revealed to us that eating red meat in excess increases our risks of developing cardiovascular diseases and developing cancer. We are only about five percent of the world’s population yet we grow and kill an astonishing 10 billion animals a year – more than 15 percent of the world’s total. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/weekinreview/27bittman.html)
While meat production and consumption is much less in Muslim countries compared to that of the United States, those in the Muslim world should also remain cautious: in many parts of the world, the festivities of Eid-ul-Azha bring along with it an increase in illness. For example, according to the Daily Star newspaper in Bangladesh, the number of individuals being admitted to hospitals increases by about 10 percent during this time of year brought on by a gluttonous consumption of meat. (http://newshopper.sulekha.com/meat-intake-during-eid-makes-dhaka-medicos-see-red_news_1127916.htm)
Meat-eating is not a requirement of Islam. In fact, according to Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, the prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) could have been categorized as a “semi-vegetarian.” He has said that traditionally, Muslims only ate meat once a week if they were wealthy or middle class. Regarding the Eid-ul-Azha sacrifice, Egyptian Islamic scholar Gamal Al Banna states: ”In today’s modern world, ideas and religion change and Islam is no different. We must not remain rigid in our understanding of faith to mean the blind acceptance of anything, killing living beings included. There is no obligation to kill.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/aug/26/meat-islam-vegetarianism-ramadan)
The holy Quran says of the sacrifice that, “It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah; it is your piety that reaches Him.” (S22:vs37) But showing piety and devotion to Allah can be expressed in many other forms. We can do so much more to help the needy by simply redirecting the money that would have gone towards the purchase of an animal for slaughter and using it for other longer lasting and more beneficial purposes. The money can go towards building schools in poor countries or even be used to build hospitals in places where access to medical care is difficult.
It is time for Muslims to think about whether this yearly mass-slaughter of animals is really keeping in the spirit of Islam – a religion that advocates kindness towards animals, instructs us to take care of the planet and teaches us to eat in moderation and take care of our health. This Eid, before you purchase an animal for sacrifice here or abroad, please consider celebrating the holiday without the needless slaughtering of Allah’s creatures.
Originally posted on: