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Spare the cattle

November 05, 2011


I remember my parents bringing home two goats yearly. I became so fond of them, relishing the moments when we took our evening tea in the garden and the goats would roam free and graze.

On the morning of Eid-ul-Azha we said our final goodbyes to the unsuspecting animals, all fattened up and healthy. I shed buckets of tears with sad thoughts about the two precious pets I had lost. Believe it or not, Eid-ul-Azha has a very traumatic and psychologically disturbing affect on the children who are exposed to the sacrificial animals. I hated the holiday as a child, wishing I had never seen the goats. Dinner consisted of all kinds of curries, swimming around sacrificed meat and I could not force a morsel down my throat. No amount of spice could eliminate the images of the poor animals being led to their deaths.

One unfortunate day, I was curious to see the process. My eyes followed the goats as the men of the family and the butcher carefully guided them away into a clearing outside our residence. As I looked around, several other families were doing the same. The goats were forced onto their sides and killed. Slaughtered. Sacrificed. After some time they were dragged onto the porch of my house and cut up into pieces while my family governed packaging and distribution. Our streets would be red for three days, blood splatters and fur advertisements all over the walls.

The story goes something like this. Abraham, somewhere in 2000 B.C. if I’m not mistaken, was asked to sacrifice his own son in the name of God. As he was getting ready to end the life of his child, his sacrifice was replaced by a ram/goat/cow/sheep. There are several variations on this story in many religions, but you get the gist of it. Centuries later, we are carrying out the same customs in Pakistan, except some affluent families have turned it into an ostentatious display of their wealth, slaughtering the best fed, biggest and most beautiful animals, bringing them down from their natural glory to absolute nothingness.

There are enough flood victims in Pakistan, for example, who still need help and instead of going to the cattle market to pay the highest price for the best looking animal, we could pool in our mental and financial resources to help the displaced and the poor in other ways. I know many of you are going to write to me about the benefits of sacrificial holidays such as the fact that Islam tells it’s followers to only keep one third of the meat and give the rest of it away to those in need hence humbling Muslims, but at the same time, why must these poor animals take the brunt of an incident that took place centuries ago?

As it is, we destroy their lives daily by consuming enormous amounts of meat with utter gluttony. Do we have to commit mass slaughters over a three-day religious period as well? There are several Pakistani families in North America who honour Eid-ul-Azha by donating money, clothing and other forms of charity to the needy because I’m sure there would be major problems if they began sacrificing goats outside their condominiums and suburban homes. Tahira, a 36 year old Pakistani, living in Toronto says “I was never for this concept when I lived in Pakistan, but you know how much pressure society puts on families to conduct religious obligations, so we had to do it.  I am glad I no longer have to conform to these ideas here and can practice my religion in tolerant and progressive ways.”

Focusing on other forms of sacrifice such as volunteering your time in an orphanage or educating the poor can be equally humbling. We haven’t been very kind to our Earth and we need to slow down the mercilessness with which we mistreat other species around us. Moreover, you would be saving future generations of innocent Muslim kids from the trauma of loving a pet and eventually being forced to eat it.

Mariam Magsi is a visual artist, curator and writer working in Toronto, Canada. She blogs at and her professional work can be viewed here.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.