Bakri Eid: Whose Goat Is It Anyway?
Eid Mubarak! It’s Bakri Eid (or Eid ul Adha or whatever you want to call it) again and to be honest I’m not too happy. I’ve always thought of it as the lesser Eid, it’s not the burst of celebration after 30 days of fasting that Ramzan Eid is, there is very little Eidi to be found, and most importantly I’m not much of a mutton guy.
Moving to Mumbai after spending most of my life in Saudi Arabia has brought me another set of issues with the holiday.
No, I’m not talking about the fact that animal slaughter in the Middle East is a very systematic and regulated process done entirely outside of public spaces. I’m also not talking about the mess that dozens of goats bring to your average Muslim housing society. I’m definitely not talking about the fact that goats have attacked me on more than one occasion and even the cutest little lamb can’t convince me that they’re not the devil.
No, friends, I mean to focus on the performative wokeness that is expected from me as a liberal, intellectual and overweight-but-still-cute young Muslim in India. You see, Bakra Eid* gives us troubled lot one more thing to apologize for, one more thing to condemn and one more opportunity to furiously reiterate that “I am not that kind of Muslim.”
In recent years, the debate around Bakrid* has escalated from ‘public nuisance’ to ‘animal cruelty’ faster than you can say “baaa.” It’s no longer enough to rightfully agree that how Eid ul Adha is celebrated in cities, particularly residential areas, needs to be overhauled and regulated.
Complaints range from decrying the Islamic method of killing an animal as inhumane (an old dog-whistle), to trauma young children can face after witnessing a goat being slaughtered.
I don’t intend to address the concerns of vegetarians here, that is a whole other article. In short: I admire the ideals but in India being a vegetarian is being part of an oppressive and casteist system that predominantly targets minorities. I do understand that there is basically no such thing as an ethical meat industry. But frankly I am sick of hearing these arguments from opportunistic non-vegetarians.
I’m not one to belittle trauma; it’s something that affects different people to different degrees. But to assume that Badi Eid* is the only time a child would see an animal getting killed, even for meat, is hilarious.
It is the kind of urban privilege that completely ignores how a majority of the Indian population lives with animals and consumes meat. It also reeks of the revisionist puritanical view that meat eating is itself an unnatural thing in Indian culture (an idea that does not stand up to historical scrutiny.)
A commonly suggested humanitarian alternative for Muslims to try out is buying a goat and letting it free. That’s... not going to work. It didn’t work for cows after the Maharashtra beef ban, as lakhs of cattle started dying of thirst and hunger. It’s definitely not going to work for goats. People keep forgetting these are livestock, not wild animals. They need to be taken care of and goats aren’t even used for dairy. Male goats in particular are exclusively reared for their meat. Hey, it’s a tough life.
Why the government pussyfoots around regulating Bakri Eid better is anyone’s guess. Don’t tell me it’s to appease Muslims, I think we’d prefer being able to ride the train without getting murdered. If it seems like Indian Muslims are especially protective of their rituals, it’s because how threatened they feel in every other sphere of life.
The fact is that Savarna Hindus don’t realise how political meat is in India. This is why it gets my goat (sorry) when mutton-loving, biryani-worshipping folks start off on “the cruelty of killing a living thing in the name of religion.”
*All of these are names for the same festival.