The Hamtramck city council, in Michigan, approved on Tuesday an ordinance allowing animal sacrifices for religious purposes as long as it’s done legally and humanely.
The decision, which got a 4-2 approval, was preceded by lengthy discussions as it puts limits on ritual animal sacrifices already allowed by state and federal laws.
“I think it’s the best compromise. We don’t want to restrict religious freedoms and we don’t want to keep it random without regulations,” Hamtramck Mayor Amer Ghalib said, The Detroit News reported.
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“We came up with a compromise that took into consideration all different opinions and were careful in the ordinance language that was used, to prevent any possible lawsuit against the city, because some organizations already started requesting information to proceed with that.”
Michigan law allows ritual animal sacrifice. Under a 1962 state law about the humane slaughter of livestock, a section on such slaughter notes “ritual handling or other preparation of livestock for ritual slaughter are exempted from the terms of this act,” except where noted elsewhere in the law.
The statute also declares that “nothing in this act shall be construed to prohibit, abridge or in any way hinder the religious freedom of any person or group.”
The change, however, put some restrictions which included notifying the city ahead of a sacrifice, scheduling a post-sacrifice inspection to ensure the area was adequately cleaned and sanitized, and keeping it out of public view.
The city attorney told the city council that such restrictions are unconstitutional. He pointed to a 1993 Supreme Court ruling prohibiting religious animal sacrifice.
“Animal sacrifice is allowed in every city of the state,” he told the council.
Meroueh advised against restricting slaughters to one area since that would prevent at least some people from practicing.
Addressing concerns about cleanup after sacrifices, the attorney said: “If you’re disposing in such a manner that is not in compliance with the law, we will ticket you.”
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, also expressed concerns over the new ordinance.
“We haven’t heard of any ordinance like this in our area,” he said.
“If there hasn’t been any history of complaints about this, then we would want to know why this would come up. It’s especially interesting now that Hamtramck has a Muslim-exclusive City Council.”
Animal sacrifice is practiced in some religions, specifically around some holidays. In Islam, during `Eid al-Adha, or the “Festival of Sacrifice,” some families may sacrifice a sheep, goat, camel or cow.
“There’s a religious and spiritual import to these sacrifices,” Walid said.
“It relates to our faith being Abrahamic. The symbolism of the sacrifice in particular around the Eid al-Adha season relates to Abraham giving the permission of sacrificing a ram instead of sacrificing his son based upon a dream he had.”
Walid added: “We would normally sacrifice a sheep or goat. From that meat which is slaughtered religiously, one third is traditionally kept for one family, another third is given to the poor and then another third would be given away to others who are perhaps not indigent but would enjoy the meat. There are a lot of lessons involved in that, being charitable to the poor.”