Each year millions of animals are slaughtered ahead of the Eid-al-Adha celebrations across the world as Muslims celebrate the sacrifce of Ibrahim in the Quran.
However, some Muslim activists have sparked debate across the region by calling for an end to the killing and instead encouraging the faithful to enjoy a meat-free feast.
In the weeks running up to the feast, the streets of many Middle Eastern cities are filled with livestock in preparation for the slaughter which sees millions of animals killed each year.
The practice has drawn criticism point in recent times from animal rights groups about the way in which the defenseless creatures are handled, transported and slaughtered for food.
One organization calling for an end to the Eid-al-Adha slaughter is “The Vegan Muslim Initiative” a Muslim animal rights group with roots in Australia and Canada.
The group’s co-founder Sammer Hakim has claimed that the slaughter in modern times is an act of irresponsibility.
“It's not a necessary thing to do today because killing so many animals - we are talking tens of millions across the Muslim world - at a time when this very act is directly contributing to so many critical environmental issues is highly irresponsible,” he told Al Bawaba News.
While some Muslims believe that the slaughter is obligatory in Islam, others point to the fact that the Prophet Muhammad rarely ate meat and was known for his kindness to animals. Scholars also claim that many of his close companions did not partake in the sacrifice.
“The Quran does not mandate killing animals according to the vast majority of scholars. But even if it did, as Muslims we are given the leeway to adjust accordingly,” Hakim said.
“For example, even in things that are considered compulsory, the Quran does not mention anything about what to do when traveling or if it is raining heavily or if one is ill or if one is in space. The rulings on these matters were established by scholars who use the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and modern day realities,” he added.
“We need to examine this practice in light of the realities on the ground and today, we see mass producing and killing animals is the number one threat to our world today so it just makes very little sense to continue doing something that accelerates our own destruction on so many levels,” he added.
Hakim isn’t alone, and the group already claims almost 800 members worldwide. Many Muslim vegetarians and vegans are left feeling uneasy as the annual slaughter approaches and some even choose to avoid the celebrations altogether in a bid to avoid the bloodshed.
The group pinpoints the fact that animals are often kept in inhumane conditions before being brutally slaughtered, alongside the environmental cost of animal agriculture as just some of the reasons why the yearly killing should be scrapped.
Despite his own strong convictions, Hakim admits that the group has received a mixed response since going public with their call for a meat-free Eid.
“My overall assessment is that some people are resistant to change when it comes to this subject. We’ve received quite a few angry messages. However, we have received strong support from some within the Muslim community,” he added.
Last week, a blog post on the organization's website which spoke out against the slaughter, generated a slew of responses in which the author was widely criticized and their views branded unIslamic.
Despite the criticism that the group has received in certain quarters, Hakim says that they will not stop the campaign to encourage Muslims to partake in a meat-free feast.
“Our vision is to educate Muslims around the world until a major paradigm shift occurs. Needlessly killing animals isn't the way forward. It causes more overall harm than good and as responsible global citizens, we should think of new and better ways to help fix this planet. We hope to bring back the true essence of taking care of this world we were trusted with and all that it contains,” he added.
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