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End of E.U. live cattle export subsidies may change Eid al-Adha

BEIRUT, BRUSSELS––Eid al-Adha slaughters on January 10, 2006 marked both the end of the haj, the season of pilgrimage to Mecca for the Islamic devout, and the end of nearly $80 million per year in European Union live cattle export subsidies.


Irish sheep )Kim Bartlett)

Much of the money underwrote the sale of cattle killed during the annual Eid al-Adha ritual bloodbath.

Most of the cattle killed for Eid al-Adha this year were shipped before the European Union cancelled the subsidies on December 23, 2005.

European Union Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel emphasized the importance of animal welfare considerations in persuading the electorate.

“This is tremendous news for the welfare of cattle,” added United Kingdom Member of the European Parliament Neil Parish. “British taxpayers have been unwittingly sponsoring this abhorrent trade for too long. The subsidy is not necessary,” Parish asserted, “as cattle can be slaughtered under humane conditions in the E.U. and shipped abroad on the hook, rather than on the hoof.”

“The decision removes incentives for farmers to send their cattle to the Middle East for slaughter, a trade repeatedly exposed for immense cruelty,” said Compassion in World Farming chief executive Philip Lymbery. Quick to claim victory, after 12 years of CIWF campaigning against the subsidies, Lymbery predicted that the E.U. action “should reduce the number of animals being exported. Live exports are inherently cruel,” Lymbery emphasized, “and all too often expose animals to long, stressful journeys and appalling slaughter methods.”

Agreed Animals’ Angels founder Christa Blanke, “For years we have been documenting offences and violations in connection with these live animal transports.”

Blanke cited as an example a recent investigation of the traffic in bulls shipped from Europe to Lebanon.

“One of the last incidents that brought about the E.U. decision,” said Blanke, “was a report by the German TV station ZDF. Cordial thanks also go to the Deutscher Tierschutzbund,” whose videography ZDF used. “The video once again showed injured animals with chains around their feet, being unloaded by crane; animals with broken legs dragging themselves along; live animals being thrown into containers; and animals being killed without stunning,” Blanke summarized.

“For E.U. cattle this torture is over,” Blanke said. “However, for the animals from other exporting nations the ordeal continues.”

Blanke predicted that “the stop of subsidies for cattle exports will not improve the situation of the animals in the long term. It will only result in the trade shifting to new markets. Even today,” Blanke said, “Lebanon is importing 10,000 to 15,000 live cattle from Brazil.

“The ship’s journey took 21 days,” Blanke continued. “Unloading cattle from the ship to the trucks has improved, due to the introduction of a mobile unloading platform. Nevertheless, cattle who are unable to walk are still unloaded by crane, which under Lebanese law is not permitted.”

CIWF has similar concerns, Lymbery said, and is now “focusing on the trades from Australia and Brazil to the Middle East.”
Further, even without the subsidies, “The threat still looms that cattle exports may resume from the U.K.,” Lymbery warned, “so we are gearing up for yet another battle. We’ll appeal to British farmers not to send their cattle overseas for slaughter, and will lead our supporters in peaceful protest against this latest threat.”

While animal welfare concerns were the issue most often cited in public debate over the subsidies, a second factor of note was pressure from organized labor, which has long sought to keep slaughtering jobs in Europe.

The Eid al-Adha tradition of amateur slaughter and individually commissioned custom slaughter have been invoked by some Middle Eastern governments as a pretext for permitting only imports of live animals.

This functions as an indirect subsidy in support of western-style slaughterhouses recently built in many Middle Eastern port cities. The year-round cattle import industry has gradually grown larger, at some ports, than the import of cattle for Eid al-Adha.

This in turn has produced an awkward alliance of animal advocates with European slaughter workers, in agreement that live exports should be replaced by the sale of frozen carcasses.

The anti-subsidy campaign was also supported by the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Taxpayers’ Association of Europe.

Sheep & goats

The end of the European Union live cattle export subsidies will not affect the majority of animals shipped to the Middle East each year for Eid al-Adha slaughter. Sheep or goats are the most frequent victims, and are usually killed by the celebrants themselves.

Any animal considered edible may be killed for Eid al-Adha, however. The poorest participants kill poultry. Cattle are most often selected by people wealthy enough to job out the killing to professional butchers.

The Eid al-Adha slaughter is supposed to commemorate the incident common to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scripture in which God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, but as Abraham started to comply, sent a ram to be sacrificed instead.

Ritually killing animals for the Eid al-Adha feast, and similar occasions by different names, long precedes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and any other religion with documented sacrificial practices. Historically, such slaughters coincided with a need to thin herds and flocks to get through winter.

Of concern even in the Prophet Mohammed’s time were the economic impacts of excessive Eid al-Adha slaughter, the effects on sanitation, and the cruelty to animals–– and mention was made of the emotional influence on small children who saw it, with attempts introduced to restrict participation in the killing to men who had come of age.

Mohammed taught that any surplus meat from animals killed at Eid al-Adha should be given promptly to the poor. This was already common practice––and so were excesses of killing ordered by people trying to show off wealth or win public favor.

Mohammed deplored observing Eid al-Adha as either an opportunity for ostentatiousness or as an orgy of public mayhem.

Quoting Mohammed, Islamic scholars and public officials in Muslim nations have warned for centuries that animals should not be killed if their meat will be wasted, and have reminded the faithful that monetary donations to help the poor are just as acceptable to God as distributing raw meat.

Countering the warnings of imams and civil servants and even the Prophet himself, however, are cultural habit and the interest of the livestock industry in selling as many animals as possible.

Over the centuries, Eid al-Adha has become very profitable not only for animal brokers within the Islamic world, but also for exporters of cattle, sheep, and goats from predominantly Christian parts of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and from India, which is more than 90% Hindu.

Having few other profitable ways to dispose of surplus cattle and calves, Indian dairy farmers long ago developed an elaborate system of subterfuges through which surplus cattle and calves are conveyed to slaughter across the Arabian Sea, either through ports in Kerala state or by longer and more circuitous routes leading through Bangladesh.

The European Union export subsidies chiefly helped European cattle producers to compete with India.

In recent years, after repeated interruptions of live exports from Australia and New Zealand, for reasons involving animal welfare, disease control, and Middle Eastern trade protectionism, China has emerged as a growing source of Eid al-Adha livestock.

This in turn has stimulated efforts by exporters in Australia and New Zealand to keep their markets, while government agencies move to both placate and quell opposition.

Western Australia state in November 2005 initiated prosecution of a firm called Emanuel Exports and two individual company directors, after Animals Australia produced video, still photographs, and witness reports documenting the suffering of dead, dying, and blind sheep aboard the livestock carrier MV Al Kuwait between November 10 and November 14, 2003.
Activist opposition, however, could not prevent Roberts Ltd. of Tasmania from exporting 45,000 sheep to Kuwait aboard the Merino Express, formerly named the Cormo Express. The cargo sailed from Devonshire on January 14, 2006.

About 5,500 sheep died during 12 weeks at sea aboard the Cormo Express in 2003, after Kuwait and Saudi Arabia refused to allow the ship to unload, on the claim that the sheep were diseased. The surviving sheep were eventually donated to Eritrea.

As the Merino Express departed, Australian agriculture minister Peter McGuaran announced that the government would introduce new legislation to penalize activists who obstruct live animal exports.

Activist Ralph Hahnheuser admitted adding shredded pork to the water and feed given to sheep at a feedlot in Portland, South Australia, in November 2003, one day before the sheep were to be shipped to Kuwait.

Since Islamic dietary law forbids eating pork or having contact with it Hahnheuser hoped that the sheep would not be exported if they were known to have possibly consumed pork. The shipment of about 70,000 sheep was delayed for two weeks. Representatives of two sheep exporting firms estimated that the action cost them $1.3 million (Australian funds). Hahnheuser was acquitted of any wrongdoing at a May 2005 jury trial.


––Merritt Clifton



This camel barely escaped slaughter in 2004 when rescued by Fizzah Shah of Mumbai

Eid al-Adha is bad for camels

CHENNAI––While the clandestine Indian cattle export industry chiefly feeds the slaughter industry of nearby Muslim nations, the Indian Muslim minority mostly kills sheep, goats, and poultry at Eid al-Adha.

Few Indian Muslims dare to harm cattle. Many have been killed in sectarian violence erupting sporadically in response to mere rumors about cattle-killing.

Especially wealthy Muslim Indians may kill camels, however, like those who massacred 30 camels at 14 locations around Chennai this year, under police protection.

The camels reportedly took up to two hours apiece to die, to the horror of Blue Cross of India chair Chinny Krishna and thousands of other witnesses.

“Islam––as preached originally––is a most compassionate religion,” Krishna commented, as a longtime leading opponent of Hindu hypocrisy toward animals. Among the major issues addressed by the Blue Cross of India during his 40 years of active leadership have been the covert cattle export trade and the routine practice of sacrifice by Shiva cultists and so-called ‘scheduled castes.’

“The way Islam is practiced, by many followers, is another matter,” Krishna continued. “Amongst practitioners of most religions, it can be said that usually ‘The nearer the temple, the further from God.’

“The only way this can be stopped,” Krishna added, speaking of the camel slaughter, “is by devout Muslims making sure that the teachings of the Prophet are practiced. There are strict injunctions that no sick or injured animal can be slaughtered; that no animal can be slaughtered in view of another; that the knife must be sharp; that the animal must be rested and well fed; that the animal must not be made to suffer in any way in the preparations for slaughter; and that even mental agony or torture is against the teachings.

“When the Prophet once saw a man sharpening his knife in front of an animal, he scolded the butcher,” Krishna reminded, “asking ‘Do you want the animal to be killed twice? Once mentally when it sees you sharpening the knife and the second time when you cut its throat?’”