Slaughter of Animals – A Culture in Decline? [analysis]

It was a busy week for Emebet Argaw, a civil servant and mother of two. Starting from Tuesday, she had been busy running around from one market place to another to do her holiday shopping. On top of that, Emebet’s kitchen chores had been a bit more hectic than usual.

But still she does it all with a smile on her face and a deep sense of pride and fulfillment emanating from agelong traditions and spiritual happiness. The case is not that different with most Ethiopian female heads of households. “I have been preparing the whole week for the holiday season. As a responsible Ethiopia mother, I feel that these responsibilities are mine,” Emebet says.

Usually, the hustle and bustle around markets intensifies as major holidays like Easter draw near, and ultimately heats up on the eve of the holiday as shoppers scramble to squeeze in their last-minute holiday shopping. No matter what, holiday shopping tends to climax on the eve of celebrations. Although such a trend is better explained by culture than anything else, to some extent there seems to be a pretty good reason behind it. For some it is about finding the time to do their special holiday shopping apart from their regular routine while for others there seems to be a solid economic justification that is the considerable reduction in prices as the holiday draws nearer. In fact, there are a few who aocate these ideals of last-minute shopping. Naturally, holiday shopping in Ethiopia is not something that is taken lightly. It is not something that people would be willing to go without. It is not even acceptable to omit some items such as the live animals for the holiday slaughter, not to mention the time needed to prepare a successful holiday feast. As Ethiopian Easter marks one of the few major holidays amongst Christians in Ethiopia, shopping is the most vital part of this religious and cultural celebration. Unlike other holidays, it features a massive slaughter of live animals. On the backdrop of coming to end the long Lenten season, Easter shopping tends to be more focused on meat and live animals. Oxen, sheep, goats and chickens are common sights on Easter market. The religious element, on its part, has played a greater role in establishing animal slaughter rituals as a central part of Easter celebration. In this, the famous Ethiopian dish ( doro wot chicken stew), is even more entrenched in Easter culture since it is the one meal that is serviced to herald the end of the lenten season, which usually takes place at three in the morning of Easter. Unlike the years before, Emebet says that this year’s market seems to be stabilizing. With the exception of onion and butter, prices appear to be more stable, she says. In major markets around the capital, the price of chickens looks to be not out of the ordinary. “For instance, I bought these two roosters (cocks) for 150 birr each,” she says.

A slight examination of some of the major markets in the capital also shows that the price of roosters is between 150 and 190 birr while, 1500-3500 birr is the price of an average-sized sheep and goat and a fattened ox can reach up to 10,000-15,000 birr. The price of one kilogram of butter falls between 150-200 birr while a single egg costs 2.50 birr. The price of onions has dramatically increased, doubling from eight birr per kilo to 17 birr in a week’s time. This being the market price among individual traders, however, company markets like ELFORA Agro-Industries Plc, a sister company of MIDROC S.C., tend to offer relatively lower prices. On the other hand, the Addis Ababa Abattoir Enterprise has also expanded its holiday services as it gets ready to deliver animal meat, that of ox, sheep or goat for very fair prices. According to Gizaw Deyas, Marketing Director at the enterprise, a kilogram of lamb is being sold for 80 birr. All in all he revealed that his enterprise has sold over 3000 kilogram of lamb this Easter. Gizaw urges people to adopt the custom of buying safe meat from abattoirs and slaughterhouses like his. He argues that buying animal meat from the abattoir is much more than about one’s health and safety. He says that the 800-1000 birr is enough to get a whole edible chunk of a lamb. A slaughtered lamb yields an average 9-12 kilogram of meat, according to him. These days, many appear to be turning their backs on the animal market and instead resorting to buying their meat from groceries and abattoirs. “I changed my mind a few years ago. Now, I never buy animals to slaughter at home knowing that I can have it for 1000 less at the abattoir,” says Abebe Beyene, who paid only 960 birr for a well stall-fed lamb last Ethiopian Christmas. “It would have cost me some 1500 birr if I had gone to the animal market,” he said.

Despite the fact that society has practiced home slaughtering for centuries, the law states that home slaughtering of animals for commercial purposes is considered a crime. “We are working on curbing that as we promote our services widely in the mass media,” Gizaw adds. Condominium housing in this regard has introduced a variety of new lifestyles that appear to be contrary to the longstanding traditional practices. And slaughtering animals is one such practice. In fact, the specific lifestyles at such communal residential areas have strict norms and regulations that discourage home slaughtering. And thanks to neighborhood committee members who are vigilant about violations of communal residential codes, now it is becoming very difficult to carry on the old tradition of in-house slaughters. “In fact, we are given a place to kill animals on holidays. But even this is becoming increasingly difficult and disallowed,” Almaz, a condominium resident, explains. Nevertheless, some are not even willing to give up this traditional practice because of spiritual and unfounded reasons. “I disagree with this new thinking because of my profound interest in such traditional practices. I think they are not part of the so-called harmful traditional practices,” says Alemu Seyoum, a civil servant in Lideta sub-city.

The city government in this regard has to do more in preventing illegal animal markets and slaughterhouses, according to commentators. A kind of intervention was observed at Shola Gebeya, one of the biggest markets in the west of the city. “We were told not to keep cattle here. We were forced to leave this common place for Kebena and Kotebe areas, which are government approved animal markets,” Endris Ahmed, a herder says. In spite of all the consequences of having unrestrained animals running around dangerously, many people like to have live animal markets around. Due to this traditional practice of purchasing animals from somewhere nearby one’s residence, herders are often seen taking their products to neighborhood markets, whether in the suburbs or main streets. And the bad part seems to be a lack of clear knowledge about whether their cattle are healthy or not. This might trigger another concern for the administration as these animals often create chaos and disorder in the traffic flow of the city and residential areas.

Every year as the city prepares to celebrate major holidays, hundreds of herders descend on the city at once. Most of them come simply because of the viability of the market in the capital and other major towns. They have hardly any knowledge of the process and customs of abattoir services. The recent activities being taken by the city administration will enable people to comply with the law and safety measures. Moreover, the trade bureau is needed to intervene in the illegal marketing that severely puts people in agony as some outlawed traders rob them, commentators say. All in all, this year’s Easter market appears to be no more different from the previous holidays except for the price rise in some foodstuffs, according to residents who spoke to The Reporter.

Source : The Reporter

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