While heading to Microkhan Jr.’s preschool the other day, I heard a dreadful squawk emanate from courtyard of an apartment building. It took me a moment to realize that someone was killing a chicken for supper—a bird likely purchased from one of Queens’ many live poultry shops. I had no problem with the violence, as I’m under no delusions about where my beloved pollo a la brasa comes from. But the chicken’s death rattle did get me thinking about how city-dwelling Americans are so isolated from the spectacle of animal slaughter—a relatively new phenomenon in human history.
That is not the case in Muslim countries, though, for animal sacrifice remains integral to the festival of Eid al-Adha. Yet several such nations are now dealing with a situation that is the opposite of that which exists in the U.S.: animal killings are so numerous in densely populated urban areas that health problems loom. Take the case of Pakistan, where government officials are finding it harder and harder to clean up after each year’s festival. In cities with populations that run into the millions, that neglect can have serious consequences:
Residents of Iqbal Town in Dhoke Mangtal in Rawalpindi told The Express Tribune that animal fat is being used by local factories for soap, oil and kitchen utensil manufacturing. The stench from these factories makes the air unbreathable for the local populace and the remains themselves pose a health hazard.
The basic health unit in Iqbal Town, for instance, is right next to a storage point where animal remains are being stored. “It is impossible for doctors to do their routine work with this smell,” said a female attendant.
Residents of the twin cities were instructed by civic bodies not to dispose of animals remains in garbage trolleys, drains or green areas and to instead place them outside their houses to be collected by the agencies’ sanitation staff. However, before the sanitation staff could complete their rounds, ‘vigilant’ labourers from local factories collected a substantial number of animal remains, sources added.
Muhammad Sarwar, a resident of Dhoke Mangtal, said that factory workers collected the bones of sacrificial animals at the Railway Ground during Eid days. “Now they burn these bones during the night to manufacture utensils and the smell that it gives off is unbearable. We can’t sleep at night,” he added. Another local, Pervez, said the city administration was ignoring their plight.
Pakistan’s airports must also cope with flocks of scavenger birds, which have come to feast on the carcasses of slain sheep that were dumped next to runways.
Ultimately, letting individuals sacrifice animals in cities is probably too deleterious to public health to allow. Saudi Arabia seems to have the right solution to this problem with its sacrifice-by-proxy system, in which urbanites purchase coupons that grant government-run slaughterhouses the right to sacrifice sheep on their behalf. True, clicking that “Add to Shopping Cart” button may not provide the emotional thrill of participating in an Eid sacrifice first-hand. But our species does need to adjust to the fact that we’re often happiest when living in clumps.
(Image via Adventures with Yo and Mo)