It’s Eid here and the whole muslim world have become carnivores for a few days at least as we slaughter sheep, goats, cows and camels in the memory of the Prophet Abraham. It was of course Abraham who was asked to sacrifice his son for the sake of Allah as a test of his faith, and then at the last minute Ismail was replaced by a sheep.
This festival is my favourite here because there is no forgetting the religious background behind the dayThe meat is divided into 3 – one third for the poor, one third for family and neighbours, and one third for you. In Australia on Eid ul Azha Muslims give to a charity to kill their sheep for them. They never see the sheep or get the blessings of eating their third. They dont get to give the charitable third themselves or share with their family or neighbours. My friends in Dubai told me they have to give a camel at the abbatoir because you cant kill sheep or cows at home. Even in some richer parts of Islamabad you have to give the money to the local mosque because they dont let you kill them at home.
Here on the other hand, it is a 100% home affair. I have posted a few of our photos for posterity. This year at home we had 4 sheep and 6 goats. The sheep arrived at home a couple of days earlier so we got to make friends with them and they were just gorgeous. Of course that also meant that the kids were in tears by the time it came to kill them, but can you imagine how Abraham felt with his son under his knife?
So the day went something like this…. After Eid prayers at 8:30am, the family all ate Eid breakfast together (halwa puri, sevigna and cake) then the butcher arrived. All the sheep and goats were taken to the empty block across the road for their last meal and run around. Then the goats came one by one into the garden to be killed. There is no hacking and slashing – they are rolled onto their side, legs are held and with prayers their throat is quickly cut.
(As an aside, Cosima tells me that they did a study of animals killed in this halal method and those killed by first stunning… they put receptors in the brain to detect distress, and with stunning they continued to have distress until they were eventually killed, despite being unable to move. The halal killed animals who had their throats cut with “Allah hu Akbar” stopped their brain function immediately. In terms of humane treatment, halal killing is the best. Plus because the spinal chord is not severed, the meat is not suddenly tensed. )
So 6 goats were dispatched pretty quickly, left for a while to bleed, then hung up on the gate and their skins removed. The sheep then came through and were also killed. We had 2 sheep, and mine was the last. He developed a taste for the birdseed we keep downstairs, and had eaten about a kg of that by the time his turn had come… it was my job to keep him away from the killing so he didnt feel distressed, but he was already in birdseed heaven. I shed a quiet tear as he was killed, but also said plenty of prayers for both him and us, that Allah would accept the sacrifice.
The next 6 hours were spent butchering meat. This is a huge job – cutting it into pieces and splitting every animal by 3… scores of little bags made up for the poor (who had been banging on the gate since morning), different cuts of meat separated for our home use, and parts to be given to all the relatives. Big bags of meat were sent to all the neighbours. The skins were all given to different people (they are much prized), the heads were given to others, the feet to others, and the stomachs etc to still more. The fat is melted down for cooking and the only things that were not used was the intestines and some of the stomachs, but these were all collected up and removed.
My mother and father in law cooked the first livers and spleens and distributed them for everyone to eat (me under protest) and my kids made themselves scarce for the whole event because they had grown too attached to the sheep to be able to watch any of it.
Until late at night meat was being distributed to the poor and cars were running all over the city sending legs of sheep off to the family members.
To those who say that Eid is horrendous and cruel, I wish they were here to see the love that was given to these animals and the way they were sent off. It is just one of the many things that make me proud to be a muslim.