By George Laghu
While preaching at the church of Our Lady, Moyo, Rev Fr. John Inima told the congregation about the time he had to sit for four hours waiting for a Muslim butcher to slaughter the goat, which his uncle had given him.
â€œI lost appetite for the meat and I would have given it up were it not for the demands of culture that an uncleâ€™s gift is never rescinded. My uncle had to labour looking for a Muslim who ended up demanding transport money and part of the meat.
â€œWhy do you think a Muslim is more qualified to slaughter your cows, goats or chicken than you? What will happen if the Muslims go on strike or you fail to find one?â€ Inima added.
His sermon has since caused a lot of confusion in Moyo, rekindling a heated debate on the rights to slaughter animals, to the extent that Christians have opened a butchery in Moyo. At the Christian butchery, meat sells at sh300 less than at the town council Muslim butchery. The Christian butchery also sells pork.
Muslims have not only condemned Inima, but also argued that the establishment of a butchery by Christians is illegal. Meat is a delicacy that the Madi cynically refer to as â€˜food that even the very sick would tasteâ€™. Science considers it nutritious, while Catholics do not eat it during the Lent period.
All major religions of the world have a special teachings about meat. Both the Koran and Bible raise several issues concerning animals, which contradict science.
In Christianity and Islam, God created animals to be food to man, but most importantly, for man to reflect upon the divine beneficence extended to him. Most religions say one should praise God for the gift of an animal, especially if the animal is going to be slaughtered.
The Koran states that slaughtering an animal must be done by an experienced person. He must use a sharp knife so that the animal dies in dignity and in a short time.
â€œBefore slaughtering an animal or bird, a Muslim must first offer it to Allah, face the direction of Mecca and say the supplications of sacrifice and thanksgiving, which are designated as a prayer,â€ says Abubakar Dakka, the chief butcher of Arua Municipal Abattoir.
Sister Gertrude Benigna Arach, a philosophy student at Makerere University, says although such elaborate slaughtering rituals are missing in the Christian tradition; there is a call for humane treatment of animals when slaughtering them.
According to some contenders, there is no where in the Koran, where it is stated that animals must be slaughtered by Muslims. Surah al-Maidah 5 verse 2, states that â€œMade lawful to you this day, are foods which Allah has made lawful, slaughtered by the people of the book lawful to you and yours is to them and chaste women from Jews and Christians.â€
Christian contenders argue that the people of the book referred to in the Koran are Jews and Christians. Thus Muslims and Christians are not allowed to eat animals slaughtered by pagans as is in 1Corinthians 10:20-21 and Acts 15:29.
In Islam, an animal that dies without thanksgiving to Allah is dirty. Surah II 168, says â€œO mankind, eat of that which is lawful and wholesomeâ€. Surah II 172 says â€œOye who believe eat of the good things where with we have provided you and thanks to Allah.â€
According to Charles Kasibante, a city lawyer, there is no explicit law that states that a butcher should be a Muslim.
â€œThe laws of Public Health demands that the standards of a public butchery must be homogeneously acceptable and where certain meat may be offensive to some sections of society, it must be clearly indicated and labeled.â€
Kasibante explains that since Muslims are greatly inclined to slaughtering their animals and Christians are not bothered by it, the rule of public order demands a soft landing.
Kasibante adds that it is not criminal for a Christian to own a butchery or slaughter an animal. Although the Bible is clear that Christians should slaughter their animals and not eat animals slaughtered by pagans, modern Christians, do not regard Islam as a pagan worship.
While thanksgiving prayers for animals are still a generally-acceptable practice, the greater shift is towards offering more humane slaughter facilities and methods such as stunning by use of bolt, pneumatic guns and electric shocks.