Well, Eid sacrifices are wrapping up as I speak (or rather type). I spent the whole morning puttering about our ritzy neighborhood on my bike observing the annual slaughter of hundreds of cows and goats (and a single, forlorn, very lonely looking lamb). I took loads pictures, a few videos, chatted with grinning, bearded men clutching scary knives, listened to haunting chants of “Allahu-Akbar” mingled with the terrified bleating of dying cattle and even managed to receive a spray of poppy-red arterial-goat blood across my face (I stood a little too close for that one)! All in all it’s been quite the morning! I haven’t even had my coffee yet!
Before I begin, I feel it’s worth mentioning that this was by no means my first time witnessing animals being killed, skinned, and chopped to pieces. My first “job” ever was at a chicken farm where my Dad gave me two loonies (two dollars Canadian for those of you unfamiliar with Canada’s curious currency lingo) for helping him kill several dozen chickens. I remember skinning ferrets and muskrats with Poppy in his shop behind the house as a kid and going caribou hunting in high school. On a dare from my father, I leaped off our ski-doo, pounced on a partridge and wrung its head off to avoid wasting a shotgun shell. I’ve seen this stuff before. I understand the process that turns a cow into a juicy hamburger on my plate. Eid just happens to be on a much bigger scale.
I have a few observations from this morning’s events, some are serious, others are trivial, but all of them stand out in my mind.
Cows bleed a lot when their throats are cut. This seems obvious but the gushing torrent of bright red never seems to end. I contrast this with goats, which, as I learned the hard way, do not gush blood into the dirt but rather spray it randomly in small spurts that can reach up to a few meters away. This explains how I managed to get goat blood in my beard.
I expected the Eid slaughter to be mostly devoid of religious significance (similar to the Hindu festival of Holi, which, from my observations in Nepal last year, is simply an excuse to party and throw colourful powder at random strangers) but the slaughter could not have taken on a more religious tone. The atmosphere of the actual slaughter was (for the most part) not that of a party, nor was it festive, it was actually quite somber. In keeping with the religious symbolism of the sacrifice (remember Ibrihim and Ishmael from yesterday) many fathers had their young sons with them and they watched the animal being tied up, pinned down and slaughtered together. Some of the younger boys were crying as they watched the animal they had fed and played with for the past few days have it’s throat slit and, more than once, their father’s wept along with them. It was thought provoking and it brought the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac alive for me.
While I’m on the Old Testament note, seeing so many sacrifices in the name of Allah reminded me of the roots of Christianity and Judaism where animals were regularly sacrificed and burned as offerings to Yahweh. The Old Testament temple in Jerusalem and the sacrifices made there would have been very similar to Eid here in Bangladesh. I’ll be able to clearly and vividly picture scenes from the OT as I read from now on. Bonus!
The animals knew what was coming. The cows and goats seemed to know that they were about to die. They had this sadness and fear in their eyes that put a lump in my throat and the goats thrashed around and fought especially hard to stay alive even after the knife met their throat. One poor cow, who was third in a line of four cows to be slaughtered, literally fainted and collapsed in a quivering heap as her neighbor had his throat slit. She didn’t regain consciousness until she had already been tied up and the knife went to work at her own neck. Although I am relatively hardened to this sort of thing, I did find myself feeling very sorry for some of the animals.
The crows, vultures and dogs are having an amazing day!
Well, that about sums up my thoughts on Eid. I haven’t fully processed everything yet but I’m sure with time a few more thoughts will pop up in my little brain. I’m hoping it will rain a lot in the next few days to wash away the blood and gore. It was an interesting experience and I am very glad I stuck around for this particular holiday…but I’m not sure if I’ll care to see it again though!