Eid al-Adha approaches with debates on animal shortage, price hike

October 24, 2010, Sunday/ 11:32:00
Muslims in Turkey, as well as those around the world, will begin to celebrate the four-day-long Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha on Nov. 16; however, as this year’s festival approaches debates on the availability of livestock and prices have increased, causing concern on the part of observant Muslims as to whether or not they will be able to carry out this Islamic ritual.Many people were confused when head of Religious Affairs Directorate professor Ali Bardakoğlu said in a statement earlier this month that Muslims should not observe their religious duties and sacrifice livestock if it means endangering domestic reserves. The professor later retracted his statements and said he was misunderstood, adding that there is no supply problem in the market for livestock ahead of Eid al-Adha.

“The figures we received from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs are here. We have 11 million cattle and 27 million sheep. Only 600,000 and 2 million of them, respectively, are sacrificed as part of Eid al-Adha. Therefore, it is not possible to speak of a scarcity of livestock,” Bardakoğlu said in his later statement.

Islam requires every Muslim with the means to do so to sacrifice an animal as a reminder of the unflinching faith of the Prophet Abraham in God and who was willing to sacrifice his own son to God before God intervened to provide him with an animal to sacrifice instead. During the four-day holiday, animals are sacrificed, with the meat divided among family and the needy, and candies and clothing are given to loved ones. This year Eid al-Adha runs from Nov. 16-19.

Marmara University Professor Emeritus Saim Yeprem told Sunday’s Zaman during a phone interview that as official institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture announced that there is no supply problem in the market, Muslims should observe their religious duties as they did in previous years. “Those who can afford to will observe this ritual, and there are no religious sanctions on those who cannot afford it,” said Yeprem.

Due to the rumors about shortages of livestock, animal prices have sharply increased ahead of this year’s Eid al-Adha, which poses another major challenge for people who want to fulfill this religious duty.

The recommended prices for sacrificial animals, such as sheep, were announced in the lead-up to Eid al-Adha last week. The announcement, which was made by charitable organizations, came late this year. Many charitable organizations that were unable to obtain sacrificial animals from the private sector made agreements with the state-owned Meat and Fish Institution (EBK). Turkey’s leading organization that carries out the traditional sacrifice on behalf of donors, the Turkish Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV), will be charging donors TL 450 for each sacrifice. The Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), on the other hand, which will begin its sacrifice campaign on Oct. 15, has set the price at TL 410.

Bilgin Şahin, the head of the İstanbul Chamber of Butchers, believes the reason behind the increase in the price of livestock is shortage prompted by things such as global warming, expensive feed and the low price of milk.

He also said the great difference between production and consumption of meat in Turkey is another factor that has led to the rapid rise in prices. Yet, Şahin said the live animals that will be imported for Eid al-Adha, the numbers of which have yet to be announced, may have a lowering effect on prices before the festival.

Despite public concerns over the shortage and high prices, Salih Bilici of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH), which charges TL 300 for each sacrifice made on behalf of donors and then distributes them to the poor, said the İHH does not expect a fall in the number of donors for Eid al-Adha this year as donations made to the foundation have constantly increased by around 10-15 percent each year since the İHH began to accept donations.

Bilici said the İHH has been organizing sacrifices and distributing meat for around 19 years and that donations to this organization have been increasing for years due to public trust and confidence in group. “We are sacrificing [our donors’] animals in 120 countries across the world, particularly in refugee camps, poor regions and orphanages,” Bilici said.

When asked about the differences in the price range set per sacrifice by aid organizations, another İHH official, Osman Atalay, said this may be because of the difference in animal prices in various parts of the world. He said while livestock prices are high in regions such as the Caucasus and the Balkans, they are low in African countries and that since the İHH organizes sacrifices in 120 countries, it demands an average price from the donors. “If other aid institutions are organizing sacrifices, say in 20 countries, where the prices are relatively higher, they may set the price of sacrificial animals higher,” explained Atalay.

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