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Musings from Pakistan…

What is daily life like in one of the most dangerous regions in the world? Find out at Cosima Brand’s new blog – written by none other than my lovely little sister. So do yourself a favour – visit Cosima’s website and learn a new perspective on a country that is once again in the global spotlight:

Eid al Adha

By Cosima Brand

Eid al Adha marks the end of the Hajj, or Pilgrimage to Mecca and is in commemoration of the sacrifice that the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was called upon to make of his son, Ismail (Ishmael).

Warning: This post is a bit graphic

Our Eid morning started off with getting all the guys out the door in time for the Eid prayers and getting breakfast ready — which for me was cake (nothing better than chocolate cake for breakfast!) whilst everyone else mostly had Halwa Puri, which is a dhal like soupy thing, sweet halwa and fried bread. Almost as healthy as my cake!

The next thing I knew the butchers had arrived. There were four of them. A head butcher, and three attendants, one looking far too young for that kind of work in my mind. As in accordance with the Halal way of slaughtering, all the goats were kept away from the place of slaughter at the back of the house, and each one was brought out individually. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my tummy as the first goat was brought around, but it was all over before I could even comprehend. They gave him a drink of water and next thing his throat was cut and he was gone.

They washed all the blood away, and hung the carcass to be skinned and gutted. Out came the next goat, and the next and the little sheep in the middle, which I was particularly sad about, as I had hung out with the sheep all morning. The cow was last, at about four in the afternoon, they tied his legs whilst he was sitting and again, it was over very quickly.

As I said in a previous post, I have worked in animal welfare, so know just how bad slaughtering can be — but this was really very quick, humane and in one swift precise cut. I think that in Pakistan the general level of care for animals is quite high, despite having some great big blotches on the animal welfare scale like bear baiting (the MOST horrible thing I think I have seen as animal cruelty goes). Because so much of the country is involved in some way with animal husbandry there is a respect there that also translates to the way the animals are killed.

After all the animals had been slaughtered, and the cutting up had begun, it was our turn to get our hands dirty… quite literally. You see the animals slaughtered are divided into three parts, one is kept by the family, another given to extended family and the third given to the poor. In our case it was more like ninety percent given to the poor. So the day was spent sorting out the meat and bagging it for freezing, as the following morning there would be an influx of poor people coming around to collect thier share of meat.

Eid is the one time of year when the poorest of the poor get to eat meat, and many go from Eid to Eid without having it, simply because they can’t afford to buy it. It is also the time of year when all of the many stray dogs and cats are full, full, full as all the scraps are usually dumped on the sides of the street. Not very pretty and a huge health hazard I am sure.

The last of the meat was cut up at around seven at night, more than ten hours work by the butchers. At that time the house was already full of guests — the extended family seem to come to our place on Eid — which means a whole lot of tea to be made and served, and a whole lot of smiles and nods as I don’t yet speak much Urdu, and they don’t speak that much English.

I then had to accompany my husband on the rounds of the city dropping off the other portions of the meat to family members and came home quite exhausted.

I had survived my first real Eid al Adha, and whilst there were still two more days of guests to get through, the part I had been dreading was over. I don’t think it will ever be easy for me to watch the things I watched on Eid, but as someone who eats meat, I think it is a real duty to understand the reality of it, and to give thanks every time.

I have put some pics in a gallery, but left out the more graphic ones, as I thought it would be  inappropriate to show them here.

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