Selling sacrificial animals in the times of Covid-19

01 Aug 2020

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MATS, baskets and other paraphernalia needed for the sacrifice on sale in the Bohrapir area on Friday.—Shakil Adil/White Star
MATS, baskets and other paraphernalia needed for the sacrifice on sale in the Bohrapir area on Friday.—Shakil Adil/White Star

KARACHI: The coronavirus pandemic has apparently changed the world forever. The world is adapting itself to new ways. People are trying to adjust to the new normal and many are still struggling to adapt to this changed situation.

However, interestingly, the coronavirus has been unable to bring about a major change to Pakistan. It seems people here are making their own rules as they go about their lives.

Like Eidul Fitr two months ago, we are ready to celebrate Eidul Azha with equal fervour and zeal despite the sharp spike in Covid-19 cases and fatalities afterwards.

Eidul Azha seems to be going the same way as Eidul Fitr — people seem to be unconcerned about taking precautions or following SOPs. Many experts are predicting another spike in cases after the festival if SOPs are not followed.

Equal responsibility

Once again the government is issuing lukewarm advice asking people to follow the basic SOPs when shopping for sacrificial animals. The lockdown — smart or not — is not working as well as it should, but we cannot lay the complete blame on the government. The people are equally responsible for exposing themselves and others to the virus.

And how can one expect social distancing from an excited group of people of all ages following a sacrificial animal being paraded around their area?

Most people are not taking govt warnings seriously

However, giving credit where it is due, the government had issued orders that temporary animal markets be located outside the populated areas of cities. It also ordered organisers to ensure that everyone follow SOPs and maintain social distancing.

This could not stop mobile animal markets springing up around residential areas. Small herds of sacrificial animals were being sold at ‘reasonable’ prices for customers who are not going out to the markets due to the virus.

Habib is one such vendor, who has brought his herd to Karachi all the way from his village located near Thatta.

He wants to make profit by selling his animals. He says this is his only opportunity to make money.

“What is coronavirus?” Habib laughed. “If I can’t sell my animals now there is no point in wasting my time all year long looking after these animals. Do you know how much money I have spent on them?”

Habib was not impressed by the millions of people infected by coronavirus. He said he didn’t know anyone who was infected, adding that the media made a ‘fuss about everything’. “No one in my village has coronavirus, no one in my family — it is just a conspiracy to stop us from celebrating Eid.”

He was not pleased by the online qurbani options either. “Online qurbani is not Islamic, how can you buy an animal without checking it? It is not right,” Habib declared. “These technical people think they can take our business away, the ulema will not allow this — it is not right.”

One of his customers complained that he was actually asking too much for his animals, which he justified by saying that he was risking his life despite the deadly virus — the same virus he had just refused to acknowledge a bit earlier.

“We are not seeing a lot of people coming to the main animal markets, so we are bringing animals to your doorstep,” he explained.

Interestingly, neither Habib, nor his team of helpers were wearing masks or gloves. But they are not alone. A large number of people who were coming to see his animals were not wearing masks or gloves despite constant requests from the authorities.

“I don’t wear mask because I can’t breathe,” said Adeel, who sells fodder and other accessories for sacrificial animals. “We are not getting a lot of customers. It is this virus. The government has not done anything to stop its spread — we are all going to die anyway, so why fear it.”

The van driver who becomes butcher

Sajjad Khan drives a van in which he carries animals from the animal market to the customer’s house. “As you know business is slow, so I am making as many trips as I can. I begin early in the morning till late in the night. Many people come to the market, some wear masks but most of them carry their masks because it is so hot and suffocating there,” Khan said.

He added that the number of people coming to the market was lower compared to previous years but still a lot of people were coming to buy animals.

Sajjad Khan would become a butcher over Eid as there is a lot of money in that too. “The best time to earn is during Eidul Azha, I accompany my cousins who are butchers. I help them in slaughtering the animals. We have many bookings already from our regular customers.”

He had no idea what SOPs would be followed by butchers. “I guess we will have to wear masks and gloves — but who will check us,” he laughs.

Khan was also not happy with the online animal market as he said it was taking away people’s livelihood. “These online businesses are not proper, they are not Islamic and they should be banned. How can people go online and buy animals? How do they know they are getting what they are seeing online?”

He added that those who were offering to sacrifice animals in a ‘clean and hygienic’ environment were fooling people. “How do we know what they are doing, are they even sacrificing the animal? Which animal they are slaughtering ... you know what I mean.”

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2020