Bakri Id or Bakra Eid is going to be celebrated next week and the alarm bells have started ringing. The debates around environmental impact, the futility and the cruelty behind slaughtering goats have started. Certainly, there is no defending animal slaughter on a large scale, in a horrific manner in public spaces. For Muslims it is a day to celebrate how Prophet Ibraham willingly almost sacrificed his own son Isma’il as an act of obedience to God and to mark the same, the Muslim community offers animals, especially goats, to Allah on Bakra Eid.
The question is whether the criticism of this religious practice, however questionable it may be, is selective outrage. Animal protection organisations will of course have a clear point to oppose it but when we look at environmental impact, do we care about many other things that severely affect the environment and ecological balance in activities that do not garner the outrage that is specifically reserved for some religious practices only. In this case, it is the practice of animal slaughter. True, sacrificing animals for religious purposes bby the entire community seems unnecessary and the environmental impact of the same is worth a debate. So let us also get into a debate about how mass felling of trees affects air quality, building roads along the coast affecting marine life and reclaiming land, to name a few, have such deleterious impact on our environment and why it is also important to speak about them.
Even talks about environment protection have religious overtones to it in today’s discourse. As rightly pointed out by a 2018 article in The Print. If you tell Hindus to not burn polluting firecrackers on Diwali, you will be told to go tell Muslims to not slaughter goats on Bakrid or Eid al-Adha. If you complain about all-night loudspeaker jagrans, you will be asked how many times you have spoken against Muslims using loudspeakers for azaan, the daily prayer. Every year thousands of Ganesh idols made out of Plaster of Paris (PoP) and synthetic colours are immersed in the sea, causing serious damage to marine life and water pollution as well. Clearly, one cares about the environment only when it is convenient to do so and when it does not affect one’s own religious practice and tradition.
Animal sacrifice or killing goats by halal during Bakra Eid in large numbers across the community is known to lead to tons of food wastage. Apart from this, the animal waste, or the parts of the animals that are not cooked for consumption is gathered in large quantities during this festival making it difficult for the local bodies to deal with such a huge amount of animal waste generated within just a day.
A 2020 article stated that in Hyderabad, during Bakra Eid, 4,725 metric tonnes of animal waste was generated and for collecting the same, the Municipal Corporation had to commission several waste collection vehicles. The collateral damage to this evidently damages the environment in many ways.
If these animals are slaughtered on the roads, and the place is not cleaned after, it means that there is blood on the streets and the slaughter as an after effect is emanating a foul smell in the area which will certainly not be desirable for any resident, regardless of their religious identity.
Animal protection NGOs advocate for vegetarianism and point towards the harms caused by the meat industry. However, during Bakri Id this meat eating is happening at once all around the world by a large population of a vast Muslim community so the impact of the same, one can only imagine, since nobody has put this in numbers yet. According to PETA, “Raising animals for food is one of the biggest causes of water pollution in the industrialised world. The bacteria, pesticides and antibiotics that are concentrated in animal flesh are also found in their faeces, and these chemicals can have catastrophic effects on the ecosystems surrounding large farms.”
It further states, “Animals raised for food also produce toxic gasses such as ammonia and methane along with their excrement.” While these arguments are aimed at meat eating entirely, they can certainly be applied to Bakra Id as well.
The cutting of thousands of trees in Aarey forest of Mumbai in 2019 to make way for the Metro car shed had led to a huge uproar among citizens. The Mumbai metro Rail Corporation fell 2,000 trees in the Aarey forest. It is no surprise that the Air Quality Index of the city has been at an all time high for the past few years. People will bicker about it but no one will attribute it to mass felling of trees carried out in complete disregard towards the Air quality of the city and how it would affect the levels of oxygen in the air giving way to respiratory disorders among the population. While hundreds landed up on the streets in protests, many were seen defending the move in the name of “development”.
Furthermore, in December last year, the Bombay High Court permitted the National High Speed Rail Corporation to cut around 20,000 mangrove trees for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train project. The corporation came seeking permission from the court since by the court’s mandate mangroves cannot be destroyed unless allowed by the court. The plea was opposed by ‘Bombay Environmental Action Group’, an NGO, on the ground that no study was undertaken about the survival rate of saplings to be planted as a compensatory measure and the Environmental Impact Assessment report for felling trees has not been provided.
A 40-year-old tree can sequester 21.7 kgs of carbon in a year. Felling of 2141 trees means an additional 46,609.5 kgs of carbon load over the residents. The city has less than 13% green cover, whereas given the density of population in the city it would need more than 35% green cover.
Coastal Road in Mumbai
The massive coastal road project the construction of which is in progress in full vigour had met with a lot of opposition from the fisherfolk and the environmentalists alike. The former for their loss of livelihood and the latter raised serious concerns over the threat to marine life. Vanashakti, an environmental NGO came out with a biodiversity report in March 2019, which was a result of research efforts with two independent marine experts. The report stated that sea snails, crabs, oysters, corals, sponges, octopus, sea fans, snappers, mussels, shrimps and rays are found in the stretch between Worli Dairy and the start of the Bandra-Worli sea link and some of them are Schedule 1 species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
“This is one of the most biodiverse shores in Mumbai. The scale of loss is unimaginable,” said marine enthusiast Shaunak Modi while speaking to Hindustan Times. Dumping non-oceanic red mud during reclamation could potentially suffocate fragile species known to live in this intertidal area, stated the report.
Why does our love for the environment get awakened only when it comes to religious practices and not when a government cuts thousands of trees in the heart of the city, quite stealthily, drastically affecting the air quality of the city? That’s a question that must be raised again and again because selective activism over environmental concerns is not helping the environment in any way.