To mark the end of the Hajj pilgrimage, Muslims around the world give offerings of an animal to be slaughtered for the feast on Eid al- Adha. Those who are in Saudi Arabia completing the Hajj pilgrimage will have the option to part take in the act itself or pay butchers to complete the act and give the offerings to the poor.
The act of sacrifice is known as Qurbani or Udhyiah completed over the Eid al-Adha period of 3 days. Qurbani/ Udhyiah is for the remembrance of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) pbuh and his test from Allah to sacrifice his own son Ismail. As an act of faith Ibrahim pbuh agreed but Allah intervened at the last minute and send a ram in his sons place. ( More details about Qurbani can be found in our blog : http://www.hawauk-online.com/articles/qurbani-rulings-and-animal-welfare ).
In 2018 Around 2.5 million animals were sold during the Hajj season in Saudi Arabia. Due to Saudi Arabia being rough desert terrain it is hard for farmers to produce large amounts of high production livestock compared to other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, USA and the UK who have vast greenery and more suitable environments. This means during Hajj season especially to accommodate the large volume of the Hajj sacrifice practice animals are imported from overseas with a percentage coming from the reserve farms in Makkah/ Mecca (Amtul. S, Saudi Gazette 2014).
How is Tayyib compromised?
The animals which are imported into Saudi Arabia (usually sheep), are imported alive on ships which causes vast Tayyib and welfare concerns.
The journey can be roughly 50 hours from the farm to the export port which would be completed on lorries in cramped conditions, followed by a 3-week crossing by ship during which time the animals are kept confined and are not mucked out so spend the time standing and sleeping in their waste products. Then even more hours from Jeddah port to the site of slaughter. When travelling on lorries it will depend on that particular countries Animal Welfare laws how long the sheep will go without a break from their confined space and food/ water refills. In the UK our law states sheep can travel by lorry up to 8 hours or with a special licence up to 14 hours (Red Tractor Assurance 2016)
Every year between 2-3 million sheep are exported from Australia in these conditions 97% of those are headed for the Middle East. Even though mortality rates may still be considered as “low” there was a high-profile case in 2003 where 57,000 sheep were imported by ship from Australia to Saudi Arabia by CormoExpress. On arrival the shipment was rejected at the port and the animals were at sea for 3 months as a result 5,000 animals died (Al Jazeera 2003). Another more recent case revealed 3,027 sheep were killed due to heat stress during an export in 2016 ( Wahlquist.C 2018)
Animals transported in this way experience Hunger and thirst, Pain and Injury while being cramped together. Disease and Discomfort due to being kept for long periods time in un-mucked out spaces. They struggle to express normal behaviour and no doubt feel fear and distress.
As Muslims this kind of confinement and treatment of Animals to for fill our own desires or what we think is a necessity does not fall into the remit of Tayyib. Yes we need to complete our sacrifices for Allah and pay our charity, but by harming Allah’s other creations in the process defeats the object, as the Hadith says
“ The worst of Shepard’s are the ungentle, who causes the beasts to crush or bruise one another”- Muslim.
The Tayyib and Welfare concerns include:
- Heat stress, Rapid change from cool to hot, Lack of cooling overnight.
Heat street affect the Renal and Hepatic functions resulting in multiple organ failure which contributes to the majority of the mortalities experienced.
- Lack ventilation while experiencing heat from engines and deck.
- Overcrowding which then causes them to perform behaviour coping strategies or stereo typical behaviours.
Neurological issues during heat stress in animals are reported to be similar to a human.
- Delayed access to feed and water
- Bad Air quality due to high Ammonia because they are not mucked out until they reach their destination.
- Disease risk from the poor ventilation and being kept in un-clean pens throughout their journey. The Ammonia levels have been found to be detrimental to human and animal respiration onboard the ships.
These Tayyib and Welfare concerns are during the transport time, however once they arrive in the masses for sacrifices such as Qurbani Unloading and Pre-slaughter handling can cause distress in the animals, insufficient rest or use of force after unloading increases adrenaline in the blood and an increase of glycogenolysis resulting in poor meat quality (D’Souza et al 1998).
What can be done/ is being done about this?
Currently there is a Lack of physical monitoring/ research from a scientific perspective although some research has been carried out to determine the below and I am sure research will continue.
There are many protests in the UK to call for a stop to Live Exports of Animals from UK to Europe for slaughter. Due to the religious requirement of Qurbani the Muslim community may consider improvements to these shipping processes so as to not compromise Animal Welfare/ Tayyib advice from our Prophet pbuh. Insha’Allah Allah will grant us the knowledge and ways to improve this process and conditions for these animals to for fill our sacrifice duties as Muslims.
Al Jazeera (2003) Ship of Death sails into final voyage [online]
Amtul, Sayeda (2014) 2.5 million animals sold in Saudi Arabia during Hajj. [online] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/10/12/2-5m-animals-sold-in-Saudi-Arabia-during-hajj.html#.
D’Souza.D.N, Dunshea. F.R, Leury B.J and Warner. R.D (1998) Comparison of different dietary magnesium supplements on meat quality. Meat science. Vol 51 221-225.
Red Tractor Assurance (2016) Livestock Transport Standards [online]
Wahlquist, Calla (2018) Death of 2,400 Australian sheep on ship to Middle East sparks investigation. The Guaridan [online]