Published on The Alternative.
The only time, in Pakistan, we talk exclusively about animals and pretend to care about them (by ultimately killing and eating them) is Eid-ul-Azha. Eid-ul-Adha (locally called Bakraa Eid) and also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, is a Muslim festival that marks the end of pilgrimage to Makkah, KSA, and commemorates Abraham’s faith by showing his willingness to sacrifice his own son Ishmael on the orders of God.
It is a three day long festival which starts with a morning sermon and prayers in the mosque, followed by sacrificing an animal, distributing its meat and then having a feast with family and friends. The meat of the animal is divided into three equal parts: the self, for relatives, neighbours and the poor. Sweet vermicelli, dates, rice desserts and other traditional sweet dishes are prepared as well.
The best part of Bakraa Eid that I used to like when I was a child, and I still see little children enjoying now, is getting new pets, feeding them and having fun with them till the day of Eid when eventually little hearts get broken by their murder.
The worst and the most unhygienic part of this festival is blood. Animals get slaughtered on roads and the blood keeps floating with no post-festival clean-up program. It gets so foul on the streets that a walk during and after Eid is simply not possible and nor is it recommended.
One favourite part for food lovers of Eid-ul-Azha is the many barbecue event invitations that are arranged during these three nights. People get together, prepare food themselves, music plays in the background and gives the night a total celebratory feel.
During these two Eids (Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha) many people living in urban cities flock to their hometowns in the countryside to celebrate these national and religious holidays with family members and grandparents. After the sacrifice is performed, lunch is cooked from that meat and is enjoyed together.
Millions of goats, cows and camels get slaughtered openly. While this used to be a very solemn religious activity, it has now been widely marketed and is a race for healthier and pricier animals to prove a family respectable in the neighborhood. Around the cities, huge billboards of cattle farms start showing up with decorated cows and goats replacing the usual models. The prices of animals go up to millions. In an economy like that of Pakistan and in a religion like Islam, where simplicity is focused and preached to the followers, this level of extravagance is just plain discomfiting.
The price tags vary from a few thousands of Pakistani rupees to millions of rupees. The animal is decorated and given rounds in the neighbourhood or around the city to show off the owner’s wealth. In the past, households used to sacrifice one animal per family but now one animal isn’t considered enough.
A race between charity organizations to get their hands on animals’ skin also begins before Eid days. From charity organizations to Jihaadi Tanzeems (religious fighters, mostly banned organizations), everyone distributes posters and flyers on how they will make the best use of that skin.
Another part of this brutal ritual is that many families keep children present at the slaughtering scene to get their faith and to experience death. This only makes the kids desensitized over the years and prone to killing pets and being brutal with fellow humans and animals.
Starting last year, the Pakistani government has banned cellular phone services across the big cities to avoid terrorist threats as many mosques have been bombed during this time. While this acts as a safety measure but it also poses many people a problem to communicate and share their happiness over phone with folks.
The idealistic approach could be to give that money to the poor so that they could get some real help instead of just meat. But at least a more hygienic and less painful technology of killing animals should be proposed and promoted to avoid the mess on streets and dehumanization of little children.
On a fonder note, Bakraa Eid and Eid-ul-Fitr bring many families together and people take time out to wish each other “Eid Mubaarak”, but nothing will be lost if we work to bring in some sanity to this whole event.