The first Feast of the Sacrifice since Flanders banned slaughter without anaesthetic

Muslims in Flanders, the rest of Belgium and all over the world are celebrating the Feast of the Sacrifice. The Feast of the Sacrifice or Eid al-Adha is one of the most important dates in the Islamic calendar. It honours the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his own son in an act of obedience to God’s command. God had a last minute change of heart and said that a ram could take the place of Ibrahim’s son.  

Traditionally practicing Muslim slaughter an animal to eat together with family or to share with the less-fortunate or with their neighbours. The animal is slaughtered according to dhabiba, an Arabic term meaning the rules for slaughter as defined by the Islamic faith.      

However, this year Muslims in Flanders will no longer be able to slaughter their Eid al-Adha animals un-anaesthetised. Flanders is the first region in Belgium to introduce such a ban. Wallonia will follow suit with a ban on the slaughter of animals anaesthetised coming into force from the start of next month. No ban is in force in the Brussels-Capital Region.     

The Feast of The Sacrifice falls in the month of the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. Together with Eid al-Fitr at the end of the Ramadan, it is one of the two most important dates in the Muslim calendar. The feast lasts for three days.

In recent years fewer animals have been slaughtered for the Feast of the Sacrifice. A growing number of Muslims here prefer instead to send cash to family in their countries of origin to enable them to buy an animal to slaughter. As this year’s Feast of the Sacrifice falls during the school summer vacation, a number of Belgian Muslims are celebrating it with family abroad.