Scholars, activists call for more respect for animal rights

Scholars, activists 
   call for more respect for animal rights

December 14, 2008, Sunday/ 11:30:00/ BETÜL AKKAYA DEMİRBAŞ
As in previous years, this year's Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), one of the two major Islamic holidays, has witnessed a series of debates over the slaughter of animals, with religious scholars and animal rights activists urging for more respect for animal rights.

Earlier this week Muslims in Turkey and around the world observed the four-day Eid al-Adha religious holiday, in which animals were slaughtered as a reminder of the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, to God as an act of obedience and submission. Eid was not only a time of remembrance of the poor with an increased sense of spirituality within society, it was also a target of harsh criticism from some environ-mentalists and animal rights activists.

Environmentalists and animal rights activists claimed the slaughter of animals violated animal rights and caused environmental pollution as parts of animals were left in the streets after animals were slaughtered in a haphazard and disorderly manner

    Religious scholars, however, stressed that the slaughter of animals for the sake of God during Eid al-Adha is an Islamic duty, adding that this meaningful occasion should not be overshadowed by the torture of animals and calling on believers to respect animal rights during the ritual slaughter.

“The butchering should be practiced according to Islamic standards without subjecting the animal to even the slightest torture. Causing pain to the animal during the ritual is not appropriate according to Islamic norms,” stated Professor Adil Bebek, an academic in the faculty of theology at Marmara University.

Bebek also said believers need to be extra vigilant in complying with hygienic standards during and after the slaughter process, adding that the violation of these standards may cause the spread of disease.

There has been observable improvement in standards for animal slaughter in Turkey compared to previous years. The Turkish government enforced a ban on killing animals in public places last year, such as playgrounds and parks, and issued warnings and advisories calling for animals to be sacrificed by a professional butcher in a designated area. In accordance with the EU Veterinarian Platform, clean slaughterhouses meeting hygienic standards were set up in many neighborhoods throughout the country. The standards, however, need to be better enforced, as many people butchered their animals in the streets under unfavorable conditions and in a disorderly manner.

Professor Saffet Köse, another theologian from Marmara University, said people have to act in a merciful manner toward animals during the slaughter ritual. “Mistreatment of animals is forbidden in Islam. We have to behave mercifully toward the animals we will sacrifice. There are even people who leave the animals hungry and thirsty for two or three days. Our Prophet [Muhammad] advised us to feel empathy for animals. We need to behave with animals in the manner with which we wish to be behaved,” he stressed.

Turkey witnessed a first in its history during this year’s Eid al-Adha, with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) sending experts to the country to inspect the sale and slaughter of sacrificial animals. Experts were, however, not very satisfied with the conditions under which animals were slaughtered.

Professor Tahsin Yeşildere, the head of the İstanbul Veterinary Chamber and a member of IFAW, said this year’s eid was the scene of unpleasant images, just as in previous years. He also stated that a report prepared by the group following the inspections will be sent to the European Commission.

Christine Hafner, another member of the fund, expressed sorrow over what she witnessed during animal sacrifices. “As they were cutting a lamb, they dropped it on the ground. The animal tried to stand up but couldn’t as the ground was slippery. The animal suffered from a considerable amount of pain. The butchering may have been sufficient according to Islamic standards, but it was in no way appropriate for required health conditions,” she stated.

Dieticians also warned that slaughtered animals may pose a great risk of spreading contagious diseases if they are not butchered under hygienic conditions.

Müge Özturna, a dietician, stated that animals may spread such diseases as anthrax, tuberculosis, rabies or salmonella to humans if they are slaughtered under unfavorable conditions. “People may face not only such problems as putting on weight in the aftermath of the Feast of the Sacrifice but also contagious diseases. Therefore, animals should be sacrificed in places previously inspected by veterinarians,” she remarked. Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoğlu also said recently conditions under which animals are slaughtered have improved, but urged people to be more sensitive during ritual sacrifices.

“Images reflected in press organs do not fit Turkey’s image. There has been an observable amelioration in standards for animal slaughter, but we need to improve them further,” he stated.

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