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Meat is a luxury, so let’s remember The Prophet’s Sunnah this Eid al-Adha

It’s that time of year again. Yes, we’re now eagerly awaiting the arrival of Eid al-Adha – those sacred days where we’ll be offering Qurbani in remembrance of the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (SAW) to sacrifice his own son for the sake of Allah (SWT).

Qurbani literally means “sacrifice” and it’s this sacrifice that helps feed vulnerable families all over the world during the blessed days of Eid.

Alhamdulillah, the meat will be separated into thirds: with a third going to the immediate family, one going to friends and family and one third going to those in need.

However, the occasion of Qurbani also serves as a reminder that in the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), meat was a luxury eaten at special times of the year.

Unfortunately, many of us have gone astray from this Sunnah and the teachings. Today, meat is often the staple ingredient in a Muslim household’s diet – to the detriment of the planet and the very people in need to whom we offer Qurbani.

The harsh truth is that our eating habits have to change – and quickly.

Of course, we’re not telling you you can not eat meat. But, we do believe we all need to reduce the amount of meat we eat for the sake of our health, the planet’s health, the lives of vulnerable communities affected by climate change and to show our devotion to Allah (SWT), who called upon us to protect the Earth.

We believe it’s our duty to the Ummah and to Allah (SWT).

Here’s exactly why, eating less meat this Eid and beyond, really is the Sunnah and the best way to worship Allah (SWT).

British Muslims: Where meat makes its environmental mark

Here in the UK, the figures around meat consumption highlight just how popular meat is in Muslim households. British Muslims – whilst constituting 5% of the UK population – account for 20% of meat consumption in the UK.

Whilst eating meat is of course a halal practice, the prophetic diet was actually predominately vegetarian, comprising far less meat than the average diet of Muslims in Britain today. Meat was, and in many parts of the world still is, expensive.

However, if we think beyond the monetary value, we’re also reminded of the ethical principles behind halal eating: animal welfare, human health and environmental impact.

As Muslims, we’re called to respect Allah’s creation and “tread lightly on this Earth”. If we therefore think of the unnecessary mass-consumption of meat (which is also additionally bad for our health), it becomes clearer to see that we really need to examine how “halal” our eating habits really are.

From farm to fork, meat consumption has a devastating impact on the climate, with masses of C0₂ emissions released from the production, travel and disposal of meat and its packaging. In fact, livestock farming produces 20 to 50% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

How, you may ask?

Well, cattle and other livestock produce waste gases such as methane which are harmful to the environment and estimated to be 84% more harmful than CO₂. Moreover, farming animals requires land, which often results in deforestation as we rid our land of plants which process C0₂ and other gases into oxygen.

Then there’s the environmental damage caused by the process of getting our meat from farm to plate. With imported meat, we hike up air pollution as meat from places like New Zealand has to cross continents to reach us. What’s more, with large-scale businesses there’s the ecological cost of road transport too, as well as plastic packaging and production costs.

Of course, this is nothing like locally-grown produce from small-scale farms and butchers which require considerably less (often almost no) travel, marketing and packaging.

Again, in terms of farming and animal-rearing, as human demand for meat increases, the world’s biodiversity is decreasing. Farmers are forced to breed more and more animals simply for ever-increasing human consumption.

Today, over 80% of land mammals are now either livestock (cows, sheep etc.) or us: meat-eating, high-consuming and polluting humans. This is why our dependency on meat drastically needs to be overhauled.

We therefore need to adopt healthy eating habits both for own health and that of the planet.

From an environmental and spiritual perspective, as Muslims we need to take responsibility for this pollution. We must seek to both reduce our meat consumption and ensure that our meat is locally-sourced to help limit additional C0₂ emissions being incurred from storage and transportation.

From a human perspective, as we’re encouraged by Allah (SWT) to look after our bodies and not eat and drink to excess, we’re once again also reminded of the need to limit our intake of meat.

Qurbani and meat: Designed to help not hinder those in need

As we now approach the blessed days of Eid all-Adha, we are reminded of the interlinked environmental and human reasons to both limit our intake of meat and give Qurbani.

To many people, this may sound like a contradiction in terms, but in fact: it’s completely the opposite.

This is because the more meat we consume, the more we contribute towards global warming. This in turn has an even bigger impact on the livelihoods and lives of communities in the developing world, who are more adversely affected by the changing climate

For families who rely on agriculture and farming to make a living, the impact of climate-induced drought and famine (as well as displacement from flooding), means that they increasingly struggle to be able to grow crops, rear livestock and rely on the environment for their nutritional and financial needs.

It’s these communities living in poverty who are left struggling to survive.

Often the people we serve here at Islamic Relief eat so little meat that your Qurbani is often the only meat they eat all year.

So, as Qurbani fast approaches: let’s remember these people in need by not only giving Qurbani to ensure that they have much-needed protein during the blessed days of Eid, but also committing to long-term environmentally-friendly change.

If we want to support these families and communities over the long term – as well as Allah’s beautiful planet for the sustainable future – we need to commit to eating less meat and adopting more environmentally-friendly practices.

This includes making simple but important changes such as sourcing local meat and accompanying locally-grown fruit and vegetables. Yes, exactly like Prophet Muhammad (SAW)!

What’s more, by also avoiding disposable cutlery, opting for dairy-substituted desserts and avoiding mass-produced fast-fashion and reusing and recycling at home when it comes to sourcing Eid clothes and gifts, we can go that bit further to help Allah’s planet and our brothers and sisters across the globe.

So, as you tuck into your Eid meal this year, thank Allah (SWT) for all the blessings he has showered you with.  Use Qurbani as a reminder to commit to the sacrifices you must make to protect the Earth and all of Allah’s beautiful creation.

Eid Mubarak from everyone at Islamic Relief!


Give Qurbani this Eid and help a family in need. Find out more here.

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