An article published in the Huffington Post called for Muslims to “reconsider” the sacrifice ritual during Eid al-Adha. The author cited a number of reasons as to why Muslims should stop sacrificing animals to commemorate Eid, and instead donate that money towards more “fruitful” projects. The author was not alone in her sentiments, and many Muslims have commented positively on her blog.

Not only are some Muslims sympathetic to her views but have also stopped performing the udhiya as a result.

The following article is a respectful rebuttal against the ideas behind the banning of udhiya. It is important to note that disagreements are a chance to engage, understand and critically assess our practices. Moments like these should not be used simply to judge or vilify the other. Insha Allah with polite dialogue and understanding we can reach those Muslims and bring them back to follow Allah's command.

The author's arguments are divided below in italics and each point is dealt with individually:

1. Story of Abraham is misunderstood in the Qur'an:

The Qur'an states that Abraham had a dream in which he believed God was instructing him to sacrifice his son. What should be obvious, yet is overlooked, is that at no point does the Qur'an state the dream was from God or that God demanded this sacrifice.”

The first point against udhiya is the author's claim that Allah never inspired Ibrahim (as) to sacrifice his son and this was his misunderstanding. This can simply be refuted by the simple fact that all Prophets' dreams are a part of revelation. There is an agreement among the scholars that their dreams are protected from Shaytan. The Prophet (saw) said: “True dreams are one of the forty-six parts of Prophethood.” (Al-Bukhari, 6472; Muslim, 4201)

Even if this were a mistake by Ibrahim (as), why would Allah not correct the narrative in the Qur'an? Moreover, why would Allah not correct our Prophet's (saw) understanding of this event? It is clear that this argument does not withstand even basic understanding of Prophethood.

2. Sacrifice does not enhance our spiritual development:

“In order to properly commemorate Abraham's sacrifice it's important to ask ourselves if we are giving up something of intense value when we reduce the sacrifice to slaughtering an animal. Are we really making the same type of  emotional and mental sacrifice that Abraham made? If not, then how exactly are we enhancing our spiritual development by continuing with this tradition?”

I partially agree with this point. How many of us pay for udhiya online – or if we at hajj buy our ticket – and don't ponder deeply about the story of Ibrahim (as)? The act of sacrificing an animal on Eid is to remember Ibrahim's (as) unflinching loyalty and devotion to Allah. He was willing to sacrifice his beloved son for Allah's pleasure. This profound incident is meant to inspire us. Yet how many of us do not ponder over our level of loyalty and devotion to Allah? Do we even sacrifice for Allah? Or do we put our comforts first?

However, even if some Muslims have reduced this day to a simple ritual, it certainly does not follow that this obligation should be abandoned. If we were to follow this line of argument, then we could continue and say that Muslims should stop praying as at times we read our prayers mechanically without contemplation. In fact, no religious act would remain if we were to follow this logic. Surely, the solution is to try individually to convert these acts from mere robotic rituals (as suggested in one of our earlier posts: Food For Thought-The Eid Of Sacrifice) to meaningful and impactful occasions, rather than abandon them altogether. Moreover, it is also about giving food to the poor – which is covered in the next point.

3. We can do something better with our money – invest in long-term projects to help the poor instead

“However, we must ask ourselves — are we concerned with feeding people for only a few days or maintaining the message of social justice the Qur'an espouses 

And, meaningless religious observation, done for the sake of tradition, as is the case with animal sacrifice, has limited scope to alter conditions .

If we are concerned with social justice and creating meaningful, long-term change then we Muslims must reconsider funnelling our money from this sacrifice and make other investments in our communities to help the disadvantaged. Maybe those investments would be towards grassroots organizations. Such organizations engage the communities they work for. They give power to their constituents to determine what they need (education, vocational training, health care) instead of assuming to know what they need (meat), thereby “helping to change the condition of a people” (Qur'an 13:11) for the long-term.”

Firstly, the sacrifice is not a mere “tradition”, but it is a commandment from Allah. “Whoever can afford to offer a sacrifice but does not do so, let him not approach our place or prayer.” [Musnad Ahmad and Ibn Majah.] “Turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice to Him alone.” [Surah al-Kauthar; 108:2] (There is a difference of opinion amongst the scholars, but at the very least they state it is highly recommended for every Muslim who can afford it.)

Secondly, who is denying the need to give charity to support long-term causes? Eid al-Adha is one day in the year where Allah has commanded us to sacrifice and give to the poor in order for them to enjoy meat on this day. This does not negate the importance of long-term charity nor replace it. Charity is an essential part of Islam. Numerous verses of the Qur'an and sayings of the Prophet praise those who give generously in charity.

Furthermore, Islam is unique in that it has a special category for long-term charity called sadaqa jariyya. This type of charity is distinct since it has continuous benefits for example a school or water pump. These deeds are special as it is one of the few ways a person can continue to gain reward after their death. It is also one of the few acts a person can do on behalf of the deceased. This is an incredible incentive to encourage long-term charitable acts.

The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); knowledge which is beneficial; or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).” [Sahih Muslim]

Muslims are highly encouraged to give both types of charity. Why must this be an either/or case and not a matter of doing both? To alleviate the pain and suffering of the millions of starving Muslims around the world, both short-term and long-term fixes are necessary; both are encouraged in Islam.

4. The inhumane treatment of animals is against Islam

“There is a strong tradition in Islam for the just and humane treatment of animals and especially those who are to be slaughtered. 

Live export animals are routinely packed tight into transport containers for journeys that can take weeks. During that time they are provided with no food, no water, and stand chained and immobile in their own urine and faeces. Many animals die of dehydration and malnutrition. Many pregnant sheep or cows give birth to their babies in these conditions, only to watch them die a slow, painful death. 

In many Muslim countries butchers are now admitting that the demand for sacrificing animals keeps them from using Islamic humane methods, thus, rendering the slaughter against the very tenants of Islam and the meat un- Halal (not fit for consumption by Muslims).”

Out of all the author's arguments, this is the main issue that causes the greatest distress. Muslims who have stopped practicing udhiya mainly cite this as their reason. Sadly, the high demand for cheap, fast meat has been detrimental to the human treatment of animals. I recently came across this thought-provoking short clip from the documentary, Samsara, about how animals are processed today.

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The author is correct in reminding us that Islam recognises the rights of animals and advocates humane treatment. While Muslims are allowed to consume meat, there are strict rules for the butcher to ensure animals have the least pain as possible in the process. While I cannot check the veracity of the accusation that animals are not being slaughtered correctly and that all the meat is not reaching the poor, it seems likely considering the sheer number of animals that need to be sacrificed in this short time.

Again however, I do not see the solution as abandoning this practice. After all, this is not simply a “Muslim problem”, for even non-Muslim celebrations carry out mass animal slaughtering such as turkeys on Christmas and Thanksgiving; or take the Orthodox Jewish Kaparot where they sacrifice chickens in the days leading up to Yom Kippur; or even the sacrifice to the  Hindu gods? It is interesting to note that similar discourse is circulated around their occasion: Christmas , Yom Kippur , Thanksgiving, and the Hindu Gadhimai ceremony.

The solution lies in working together and putting measures in place to allow for the humane treatment of animals around the world all times of year, particularly in the high-demand seasons. For Eid this could possibly mean extending the time for sacrifice to allow butchers more time to carry out their duties properly. Muslims should be at the forefront of this issue and call for animals to be humanely treated according to the rules of Islam. Our efforts should not lie in abandoning the practice, but in reforming it in order to correctly fulfil the obligations set out by Allah to the best of our abilities.

34 Responses

  1. Zaheer

    Salaam,

    Good article. I think it succinctly addresses all the points in the original article.

    I also agree that the most valid point is the one regarding the humane treatment of animals. As the author’s pointed out, however, this problem is not unique to Islam, and furthermore, is relevant to anyone who eats the meat of animals. And this encompasses a majority of the world’s (non-starving) population. It is a serious problem in the modern world, and is driven, largely, by overpopulation. However the current narrative doesn’t allow one to speak openly about this worsening issue.

    That being said, none of the reasons given in the huffpost article justify stopping udhiya. Their basic argument is against how udhiya is practiced – assuming there is no other way to do so. As Hira has pointed, however, there is a right way to do this very important religious duty.

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    • Saad Mustafa Zaman

      “…none of the reasons given in the huffpost article justify stopping udhiya.”

      Mr. Zaheer: Is there ANY possible argument that would justify someone stopping one of Allah’s commandment??? Can you think of anyone who has the authority to change Allah’s laws???

      What both the author of the Huffpost article and the author of this article failed to realize is that even suggesting to stop a fard commandment from Allah is an act of MAJOR KUFR. Maybe Hira Amin did realize that but was trying to be polite (as suggested by her introduction). I, on the other hand, feel no obligation to look kindly towards acts of kufr.

      Furthermore, the failure to identify kufr is in itself kufr. Sadly, so-called Muslims of today have forgotten that.

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      • Omer

        “Can you think of anyone who has the authority to change Allah’s laws???”
        Actually, the state/federal law do this all the time, so there’s your answer (not just regarding the sacrifice).
        In my country we are not allowed to do this anymore (slay an animal without using tranquilizers) and the Muslim and Jewish organization can’t do anything about it.

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      • Saad Mustafa Zaman

        Mr. Omer: I didn’t say if there’s anyone who DOES change Allah’s laws. Yes, of course many nations do. That is the cause of kufr in societies all over the world: man-made laws replacing Allah’s laws and the so-called Muslims of the world blindly accepting it.

        I asked: does anyone have the AUTHORITY to change Allah’s laws? The answer is “no one”. Not even the Prophet (saws) if he were here today, except by clear instruction from Allah.

        Read the tafsir of Qur’an 9:31 and correct your understanding.

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      • Omer

        Salaam brother, please don’t get mad at me. My choice of words was not very smart. I know they can’t change Allah’s SWT laws and what He asked from us, neuzubillah, but you can’t enforce or practice them either and there’s nothing a 3% minority can do except move. And if you move there’s no Islam here anymore, no more converts. And calling us “so called muslims” is not very nice from you.

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  2. Hassan

    I find muslims’s resilience to weird ideas/ideology quite amazing (sign of true faith). Overwhelming majority of muslims do not care or listen to such people and keep doing what they are supposed to do, alhamdulillah.

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    • Ivory Tower

      Hassan, if we were doing what we were supposed to do, we would not be in the situation we are now. This means something is missing, either in intention or in practice.

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      • O H

        Some people are never pleased. The Hypocrites during the peak of Islam, which is during the Prophet (peace be upon him) and sahabas time in Madina, complained & questioned various aspects of the deen. They appear to be advisers and well wishers for the Muslims but they are anything but. By the way in no way I am suggesting that the author for huffington post is a hypocrite before any one jumps at me! One of the biggest trials for the Ummah are the modernists who seem to get a platform to discuss and scrutinize every aspect of the deen and discuss things which they are not qualified to.

        Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (Radiallahu anhu) said: “Islam will be destroyed by the mistakes of scholars, the arguments of the hypocrites who misinterpret the Qur’an to support their views and misleading rulers.”

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  3. Greg Abdul

    Here I was, just thinking that I can do better things with the Eid and then I read this…I can’t wait to go kill Bambi next year!

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    • Hyde

      Hey hey come on bro, I know what you mean when these “progressives” come out and say this stuff and you just want to go crazy…but relax. I know your not gonna kill Bambi…I understand your angst, but muslims practices have fallen well below the line of decency, so that must be taken into consideration.

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  4. rehmat1

    Anila Muhammad is member of Canadian chapter of ‘Muslim For Progressive Valuesffiliated with Ahmedia set whose members are not accepteded as Musli in the Muslim world. The West and Israel recognize them Muslims.

    HuffingtonPost is an anti-Muslim websit and propaganda voice for the Neoconservatives.

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    • Hyde

      Not surprised then. If pornography was considered journalism, it would be the HuffPo. Look at the bigger picture. “Muslims” who get nowhere with their ideas, get it published on that website. And some of the commenters are well equipped from the “lets adopt Islam 2.0″ liberal progressive branch, including one notorious Canadian professor of who supports gay marriage.

      So not surprised. Thanks for Sister Hira for writing a rebuttal at MM. In fact I really think MM should take a more conspicuous stance in offering rebuttals to the brain washed stuff that appears left and right written by the “most pious of Muslims”…

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      • Hira Amin

        Salaam – Yes I agree, the media does give platforms to eccentric Muslims. However, while they don’t represent the majority, I feel that some other Muslims are somewhat swayed by their articles. They have the skill to put together arguments that seem cogent, so it is important to highlight the inherent inconsistency and help those Muslims on the edge and confused. So my main point of writing the article was not actually to persuade the author, but rather to help those muslims who secretly share her sentiments and are feeling doubtful.

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      • Hyde

        W. Salam. Dear sister your 100% correct. The media will always focus on either the extreme right or dim witted atrociously left. A liberal degree is sufficient for the prerequisite.

        Ironically having a Muslim name can give you a lot of credence when you are actually far from Islam.

        I personally want to thank-you for for not even writing about this particular topic, but highlighting the bigger issue of having NOMs trying to rewrite laws.

        Bless You many many times from the heart :)

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    • Greg Abdul

      The great weakness of HuffPo is they pretend to be open minded, but for them open-minded means they get to tell Muslims our religion and what they don’t like that we have to stop doing and they find “Muslims” who go along with them and give these people a voice, when in fact they are outliers who are not known at the mosque or in the community. Their only function is a NOM (name only Muslim) who bashes Islam and talks about “reform” when no one in the vast majority of the community is giving them a second thought.

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      • Hyde

        My good friend, you are quite correct…NOMS…welcome to the modern world, where the people poison the arrows at the door…have me met good brother ? If not Peace Be Upon You

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  5. Hana

    The question I’ve always had about this is whether it’s more important for it to be a *sacrifice* or for it to be an *animal*. Back when everyone were farmers and herders, or in a culture where people can’t afford meat on a regular basis, an animal was one of the most meaninful and economically important things people could give as a sacrifice.
    However, in Western society, espcially in the city, this specific practice doesn’t quite make sense to me. Meat itself is not a big deal – if anything, we should be eating less of it. Also, if a person decided one year to be horribly selfish and not give anything, what on earth would they do with a live sheep or that much meat all at once? I’ve always thought that it would be more meaningful and in keeping with the purpose of the sacrifice to give away a large amount of money or time or something that is of great value in this cultural context (or something that the poor specifically ask for), instead of something that was important in a different time and culture.
    Does the Qur’an specify anywhere that it has to be an *animal*?

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    • O H

      The majority of scholars are of the view that it is Sunnah mu’akkadah (an emphasized Sunnah) . This is the view of al-Shaafa’i, Maalik and Ahmad according to his most well-known view according to whilst some scholars have stated it is fard (compulsory) as mentioned in http://islamqa.com/en/ref/36432/

      There are rulings which are enjoined on us as a kind of pure worship. These are rulings in which the connection between the ruling and the action is not clear, such as the number of prayers, the number of rak’ahs and most of the actions of Hajj. By the mercy of Allaah, such rulings are few in relation to the rulings the wisdom behind which may be rationally understood. These rulings are prescribed as a test to demonstrate whether a person is a true believer. It should also be noted that sharee’ah – both general principles and minor details – does not prescribe anything that contradict common sense, but it may prescribe something the reason for which cannot be understood. There is a big difference between the two. If a person is rationally convinced that Allaah exists and that He is wise, and that He alone deserves to be acknowledged as Lord, and he is rationally convinced that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) is a true Prophet, then he affirms that Allaah is the Sovereign and the Lord, and that he is His slave. Then if he is commanded to do something or is forbidden to do something, and he then says, “I will not follow this ruling until I know the reason behind this command or prohibition,” then he has proven himself to be false in his claim to be a believer in Allaah and His Messenger. The human mind has a limit beyond which it cannot go.

      Got this from http://islamqa.info/en/9603. More explanation can be found in the link.

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    • UmmSumayya#1

      To add to OH’s comment, Allah(SWT) says in Surah Al-Hajj, Ayah 22, “Their meat will not reach Allah, nor will their blood, but what reaches Him is piety from you. Thus have We subjected them to you that you may glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and give good tidings to the doers of good.”

      That is, even if sacrificing an animal seems “old-school” the underlying purpose of udhiya *is* obeying Allah (SWT). This Ayah also proves that yes, the sacrifice needs to be an *animal* sacrifice. As Hira mentioned, we need to go back to *why* were sacrificing an animal in the first place. We’re a sacrificing an animal as a way of reliving Ibrahim (AS) and Ismael’s (AS) story, and just as Ibrahim (AS) obeyed, so do we.

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    • O H

      Imam Sufyan Thawri said thrice that:

      “This religion is based upon narrations, not opinion, This religion is based upon narrations, not opinion, This religion is based upon narrations, not opinion”.

      Ali Bin Abi Talib (radiyAllaahu ‘anhu) said:

      “If this religion was according to opinion, then the bottom of the khuff (leather socks) would have more right to be wiped than its top, and I have seen the Prophet (salla Allaahu alayhi wa sallam) wipe over the top of his khuffs (leather socks).”

      [Abu Dawud 162, Sahih by Albani also Irwa Ghaleel 103]

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  6. sam

    If you want to sacrifice and animal then do it yourself, instead of getting other people to do the dirty work. Let’s see how many people are willing to do that.

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    • Greg Abdul

      Oh, you are not a Muslim? Sam, we kill animals by hand once a year (as opposed to the machine slaughter that kills by the millions). That is the whole point of the holiday and most of us believe a big value in the holiday is that once you kill an animal by hand, you know every time you eat meat what goes into putting it on your table and this makes us respect the animals more. We don’t go from Bambi to Kentucky Fried Chicken, with all its inherent contradictions.

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  7. sam

    lets make sure none of this meat is wasted…..it all went to the poor..some who only eat meat once or twice a yr

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  8. AHAzeez

    Salaams, great points all. I think rebuttals of this nature are very important to protect Islamic practices from ‘progressive extremism’ just as much as ‘regressive extremism’. Kudos. I’d just like to point out a small error. The article in question was not in fact published recently, but last year. Perhaps you mean that said article was enjoying more publicity of late?

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    • Hira Amin

      LOL jazak Allah for pointing that out! You are right – It was written last year but since it was recently passed around and the MM team thought it was necessary to respond. None of us noticed it was published last year. I will take out the word “recently” :)

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  9. Kirana

    I get the points made by non-Muslims. But, I don’t see why we can’t donate money for capacity building projects, AND keep the sacrifice. I mean, I do. I probably give more for the former than the latter. You could always authorise the sacrifice on your behalf to be done where the people barely get any protein in a WHOLE YEAR. So, it’s going to the poor who already get little protein otherwise.

    Anyway secondly, and more simply, the Eid sacrifice in practical terms (excluding the spiritual intention) is basically exactly the same as what would happen anyway on that day, in terms of animal slaughter, because all this meat GETS EATEN ANYWAY whether sacrificed on Eid, or just slaughtered that day when the butchers and abattoirs are open (because they’re not closed for Eid) for ordinary sale and consumption. So unless the premise is about ZERO MEAT CONSUMPTION ever for everyone, then it’s just a straw man. Most of the animals would’ve got slaughtered anyway, only not for the meat to be given away.

    Think “food bank” – the food stored and distributed in a food bank at some point or another was grown and if it is meat, was killed. Just because Muslims carry it out altogether on one day and assign a spiritual significance to it, doesn’t change what the practical effect is, to secular eyes. And that effect is exactly the same as what we approve of, with other names and labels. Only, the food is actual meat fresh from the animal, instead of clean tins and frozen stuff whereby it doesn’t remind you what the food looked like before processing.

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    • Amel

      As-salamu Alaykum,
      Many people don’t seem to realize that the meat that is distributed on the Eid is a great happiness to millions of Muslims around the world. The idea is not to provide a long-term solution for eliminating poverty and hunger with the sacrifice of a sheep but to make sure that everyone has meat to eat on that specific day. It is kind of like what people in America do on Thanksgiving and Christmas by making sure that the poor and homeless have access to a good turkey dinner. I have spent several Eids in a Muslim country and think the sacrifice is absolutely one of the most beautiful experiences I have had in my life. Typically the men slaughter the sheep, the women do their part by cleaning and packaging the meat, and then the kids are the ones who distribute the packages to the poor and to their neighbors and relatives. In other words, everyone in the family gets involved and shares in the happiness and barakah of that day. Obviously I cannot speak for the Muslim world as a whole, but I have personally not seen animals being mistreated or improperly slaughtered. If these practices take place, then the specific people doing things incorrectly should be advised. I also agree with Kirana that there is nothing special that takes place on the Eid that would not otherwise take place on another day. Animals are raised and slaughtered as a way of life all over the world. It is a fact of life that people eat meat, and meat still has value in most of the world, where it is very expensive and often difficult for a family to afford on a regular basis. Just because meat is more affordable and widely available in the U.S. does not mean that this is the case in other countries.

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    • Hira Amin

      Salaam

      Jazak Allah Khair for both of your comments. Masha Allah you both summarised your points well. I completely agree and did not understand why both the sacrifice and other types of charity could not be practiced together. Unless the argument is about zero meat consumption – as you said – it doesn’t make sense. There is an issue of mistreatment of animals but this is not just our issue but a much bigger issue.

      Amel – that is really nice – the way you described Eid. You make an excellent point about people distributing food specifically during Christmas and Thanksgiving – it is the same thinking that at this time of year no one goes to bed hungry. I don’t think anyone will call for that to stop.

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  10. ahsan arshad

    What upsets me the most is how the animals are treated when they are slautered. But this is not specific for eid ul adha, during the year when I go to purchase a chicken, in my country they slaughter it first IN FRONT OF ALL THE OTHER CHICKENS WAITING TO BE SLAUGHTERED, in a unhygenic environment. This is something we need to address anyway.

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    • Hira Amin

      Yes Jazak Allah Khair for this comment. We should not shy away from this and state boldly – it is an issue and one that needs to be resolved. But like you said, it is not specific to Eid or Muslims, but a world wide phenomenon. Since it is a part of our faith, ideally Muslims should be at the forefront of this problem and campaign even to pay more money for meat in order to ensure the animals are being treated with dignity. I think the issue is the higher demand for cheap meat that causes increasingly bad conditions for animals- this downward spiral needs to stop.

      Similar discussions are happening with childcare and nurses in hospitals. The higher demand for cheaper care means that more children/patients are assigned to one carer. The more children/patients per carer means that each child/patient will not get enough attention and care. This downward spiral is being discussed as obviously humans can speak and make noise about it. Unfortunately, animals don’t have this luxury.

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