In agricultural society, live stock represents wealth and hence sacrifices. In an urban society wealth is represented by money. If one contributed the equivalent of the price of a goat or a cow to charity --- i.e. feeding the poor, donating to hospitals etc, it should have the same effect
Every year, on Eid-ul-Azha (3 days long annual Muslim Festival, starting in a few days, during which animals are sacrificed to please Allah), I feel as if I am living in one of the ancient civilizations, in which offering of blood was a way of pleasing the gods. I see potential Taliban in all kids who gather with joy and amusement on the nooks and corners of the streets to watch the killing of sacrificial animals in the open, with their helpless struggle and gush of blood spurting from their slashed throats. It is like a fun show for them --- but also a first lesson of slow beheading of living beings. No wonder one day some of them do the same to other humans.
I am not a vegetarian. But killing an animal in a slaughter house for the need of meat is one thing, killing animals on the streets and making it a public spectacle is another. It takes almost half an hour for a camel to breathe its last after its long throat is incised at several places as hundreds of spectators, mostly youngsters, look on. In civilized societies, painless death of animals is ensured even in slaughter houses.
Here people will call my views as anti-religion. However, any sensible person will at least agree to the modification of religious practices in accordance with current civil standards. The meaning of wealth and sacrifice has changed in the last few hundred years as societies have become more urbanized. In a primarily agricultural society, live stock represents wealth and hence sacrifices. In an urban society wealth is represented by money. If one contributed the equivalent of the price of a goat or a cow to charity --- i.e. feeding the poor, donating to hospitals etc, it should have the same effect and relieve the cities of the unpleasant sounds and sight of animal sacrifice in an unsuitable environment. However, in this society where rituality, and not the objectivity, is considered to be the essence of religion, who will heed such suggestions? Especially, when apart from ritual, sacrifice of animals on streets on Eid serves many other purposes, such as:
- Showy display of one’s financial status and/or ‘zeal for religion’ by sacrificing a well-fed and, therefore, costly animal.
- Satisfaction of sadist instincts of a sexually and socially suppressed society.
- Publicly displayed intimidation of other religious communities in multi-religious societies.
- Inculcation of a new generation into spilling blood to appease God and a blunting of sensitivity to slitting throats in the name of religion.
While Eid provides an occasion to the rich and wealthy to boast their social status, it pushes the red meat further away from the buying power of the lower and middle classes. Each year the prices of beef and goat/lamb meat increase after every Eid as it ensues dearth of animals due to mass slaughtering during those three days.
Many will differ with me by arguing that not animal sacrifice but violent movies and video games, imported from the West, carry more potential to develop liking for violence and killing in the children. True, but movies with scene of violence, display a warning first that they are not suitable for kids to watch, whereas children are often encouraged to watch the slaughtering of animals on Eid. Moreover, there is a world of difference between watching killing and shooting in movies or video games and live bloodshed of mammals.
Killing is always bad. But there are degrees of goriness of killings. Hundreds of people are murdered every day in all cities of the world. Most of such events do not find a place even in the local newspapers. But why did lynching of two brothers in Sialkot more than a year ago shock the educated classes in Pakistan? Half of the all murders committed in Pakistan are carried out with blunt weapons; for instance, most honor killings are done with axes. The victims in all such cases experience the same agony and pain as did the two brothers in Sialkot did. Then what made the nation so upset about that particular mayhem? It was the insensitivity and hard heartedness of the crowd present at the scene eager to take a peek of that mercilessness as some sort of entertainment.
Similarly, shooting a person is not desirable. But filming the slow beheading of a helpless civilian like Daniel Pearl with his hands tied with the recitation of “Allah O Akbar”, and then releasing this video footage on the internet is something totally repulsive to civilized people. Similar public executions are a common practice of the Taliban both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. After every such “show”, the decapitated head of the victim is held with its hair and raised in front of filming cameras with a joyful crowd watching. In Saudi Arabia, after Friday’s congregation prayer(Juma), Momins hurry out of mosques to rush to nearby grounds, some even literally sprint. This they do to secure a place in the front most row of the public assembly to watch the public execution of the convicts by chopping of their heads. These phenomena have an analogy and strong connection with the killing of animals in public on Eid-ul-Azha. These are links in the same chain.