Compassion for sacrificial animals

Published June 8, 2024
Illustration by Faraz Ahmed
Illustration by Faraz Ahmed

Eidul Azha holds significant religious and cultural importance for Muslims around the world. As we know that at the heart of the observance of Eidul Azha is the practice of qurbani (animal sacrifice), which involves the slaughter of specific animals to honour the supreme sacrifice made by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail, as a symbol of submission and devotion to Allah’s Will.

The meat from the sacrificed animals is then distributed among family, friends and the less fortunate, promoting the values of charity, compassion and sharing of blessings.

As this sacred event approaches, most Muslim households are buzzing with excitement and preparations. Discussions and plans revolve around selecting the appropriate animals for sacrifice, and considering factors like one’s family size and budget. All family members eagerly share their opinions, ensuring nothing is left out from celebrating the festivity of Eidul Azha.

Besides preparing to buy sacrificial animals, ensuring the health and well-being of these animals — whether sheep, goats, cows or camels, remains our topmost responsibility until Eid. Today, I will highlight some of the main tips on taking care of these innocent sacrificial animals to maintain the sanctity of the occasion.

How prepared are you for the animal?

While the responsibility of selection of animals is mainly of the adults in any household, children are also very interested in the discussion and participation in the deed. However, a few crucial steps should be followed to avoid any kind of nuisance.

For instance, one must carefully select animals and the suitable location in which they are supposed to be kept. Suppose you plan to keep the animal in your own house and not your locality’s joined enclosure. In that case, you must remember to install and arrange necessary supplies such as feeding troughs, water containers and proper resting areas before the animals arrive. Though your parents already have these things in mind, if you want to be part of the whole process, you must help them out in the arrangements.

Avoid cattle markets

Most youngsters are too eager to go to cattle markets. Ideally, as the family’s youngest member, you should not accompany your elders to the cattle market for two main reasons. First, the animals come from various rural areas and are often not hygienically cleaned. And the area where they are tied is typically full of fodder and dung, which is also the breeding ground for germs and infections. Elders have stronger immune system and better protection awareness that makes them keep themselves somewhat safe. But those who are young, they can easily catch germs and get sick because their immune system is not strong enough to fight harmful germs that these animals and marketplaces carry.

Second, these markets are usually chaotic due to the large number of animals, buyers and also the onlookers at the same time. The noise and people teasing the animals sometimes make the animals agitated, leading them to get out of control, running and hitting people. There have been many such instances in the past.

So, my dear young fellows, I know you are excited to go, but please consider these points. If you do go, always wear a mask and stay close to your parents.

A risky animal arrival process

We have often witnessed that while unloading the animals, they sometimes get injured. Some handlers are too impolite, while others are just careless and in a hurry, so they initiate the process of unloading them quickly. The animals, already under the stress of traffic and noise, often cannot handle the pressure, resulting in knee, ankle or toe injuries from falling or jumping off the trucks or loaders.

Sometimes, when kids and crowds surrounding the animals hoot, whistle and make weird sounds while the animals are still in the trucks, it can startle them and cause them to jump out, leading to potential injuries.

This is a festival that you must respect, including respecting the animals that arrive. Remember, they are brought for a noble cause, so you should prioritise their safety and health. Avoid teasing them or making loud noises to grab their attention. Keep a distance from the animals and tell your friends to stay away too, to help minimise stress and prevent accidents.

Daily care and management

Once the animal is settled, daily care and management are essential for maintaining its health and well-being. You must take care of it at all costs. Proper feeding, including water, hay, green grass, etc., must be maintained. Regularly check the animals for common health issues, such as infections, parasites or physical injuries, and also observe behaviour and activity levels.

If your animal is tied with other animals in a joint enclosure, remember to check for hygiene and cleanliness of the area and that of your animal. If the handlers there are not taking care of the animals, you must inform the elders in your family. The area where the animals are kept must be cleaned or washed regularly, and there should be someone to make sure that the proper disposal of waste is maintained to prevent the spread of diseases.

Illustration by Faraz Ahmed
Illustration by Faraz Ahmed

Ensuring animal comfort and stress reduction

I have often noticed some enclosures have large sound systems installed and, throughout day and the night, music was played at high volumes, while the enclosures were illuminated with high-watt bulbs or bright lights, making it feel like a marriage hall.

The animals at these places could neither sleep nor rest, creating a highly stressful situation for them. Make sure you or your friends are not keeping the lights on all through the night, nor playing music at high volumes the entire time. Ensure that you are taking care of the animals by providing them with a calm and stress-free environment, especially when it is time for them to sleep. The cattle need to rest both during the day and at night, so turn off or dim the lights and avoid playing music for long.

Moreover, most of you will be too eager to take your animal out for a walk. While taking them out for a walk is a good idea, you should not make them run or start running with them. Always take an elder with you, so that if the animal startles or gets out of control, an elder should be there to take things under control.

Bathing the animal

If you have already bought your sacrificial animal(s), bathing them every other day is very important for several reasons. Firstly, bathing helps maintain their hygiene, minimising the risk of infections that could affect their health and consequently, the quality of the meat. Clean animals are less likely to catch parasites and harmful bacteria.

As this is the peak of summer and the weather is hot everywhere, these animals can’t stand the heat either and can get exhausted, suffer heat strokes or develop diarrhoea easily. Moreover, this hot and humid weather increases the risk of particular diseases and hoof-related problems. You might not notice, but if you closely inspect the animal, it may show signs of difficulty while standing in a certain position.

So ensure that you are taking good care of your cattle by providing them with ample water to drink and giving them a regular or every other day bath. This also promotes the animals’ comfort and well-being, which is an essential aspect of treating them humanely. Furthermore, a clean and well-groomed animal reflects respect and consideration for the sacrifice being made, aligning with the ethical and spiritual values of Eidul Azha.

Preparation for qurbani

Eidul Azha teaches us not only to give the most beloved things in Allah’s way. It also reminds us to be merciful to animals, as they give their lives to Allah. Thus, it is important to perform the sacrifice humanely and also hygienically; ensure that the animals are treated with respect and that pain and distress levels are minimised. Moreover, in my opinion, young kids should not attend the sacrifice of the animal as this may cause them distress at a tender age.

Post-qurbani care and responsibilities

After the sacrifice and distribution of the meat, the next step involves washing the area hygienically. Disinfecting equipment and surfaces used during sacrifice is also important to ensure safety and cleanliness. If your elders forget about this crucial step, don’t forget to remind them to buy various cleaning supplies.

Dear kids, considering the above precautionary tips, I hope you will be more careful this Eid. From the arrival of the animals to the day of Eid, it requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following best practices for animal care, hygiene and ethical treatment, we can celebrate Eidul Azha in a manner that honours both tradition and the well-being of you and your animals.

Published in Dawn, Young World, June 8th, 2024

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