Plenty of sheep but not enough abattoirs as French Muslims celebrate Eid
More than 100,000 sheep and lambs will be slaughtered in France to celebrate Eid al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice) Friday. The festival is one of the most important of the year for France’s four million or so Muslims.
The ritual slaughter is tightly regulated here in France and has to take place in abattoirs following strict health and safety regulations.
Anyone found flouting the law risks a 15,000-euro fine and up to six months in prison.
Meskine Dhaou, a member of the French council of Imams and founder of France’s first private Muslim school l’Ecole de la Réussite, says slaughter must be done in abattoirs to minimise the animal’s suffering. But he regrets the lack of abattoirs able to cope with the high demand during Eïd.
“There’s a shortage of abattoirs – in the Paris region at least - so the slaughtering cannot all be done on the first day," he says. "We would like there to be more abattoirs so that everyone can celebrate on the same day – just like the Christians have Christmas Day and the Jews have their special day."
There is no permanent abattoir in Seine Saint Denis, where Dhaou lives along with some 450,000 other Muslims.
Councillor Stéphane Troussel told French media that despite France’s secular tradition, the local council was aware of the problem.
For the third year running it has organised a mobile abattoir in the huge La Courneuve park.
But many local Muslim families have opted to order their meat from elsewhere.
Cheikh Dhaou, along with families whose children attend the school, has ordered his from a non-Muslim farmer and butcher in rural Normandy.
There are plenty of sheep and not that many Muslims in the region, so supply far outstrips demand.
The animals will be slaughtered in Normandy then delivered to the school in a refrigerated lorry this afternoon.
Ordering well in advance from a supplier outside the capital has also kept otherwise exhorbitant prices down says Dhaou.
“On average a sheep costs between 250 and 290 euros, slaughtering included. It’s not the fault of sheep farmers or butchers. It’s the abattoirs - they double or triple the cost of slaughter because there’s an enormous amount of work during Eid.”
With more than 100,000 sheep expected to be sold over the three days of Eid, Dhaou said the Normandy butcher claimed France’s Muslims were helping to save France's struggling sheep farms.
But Eid is not just about eating mutton. It’s a spiritual affair which revolves around sharing and friendship, says Yvonne Fazilleau, headmistress at the Ecole de la Réussite.
“The dimension of friendship is very important and not only among Muslim people but with our neighbours," she insists. "Even though they’re non-Muslims it’s an obligation to go and see them and give sweets and special cookies. People, especially in France, think that Muslim people want to be just between themselves. It’s not at all the case. Mohammed said all the planet is my homeland, and it’s true.”