Livestock – sheep, cows, bulls, oxen – play an integral part in rural and urban Egyptian life.
Farmers depend on cows and oxen for milk and meat; many Egyptians still drink “loose milk”, brought into the city from small farms close to Cairo and Alexandria, believing it to be fresher than milk sold in supermarkets. Small town farmers also make a living selling their livestock in the city, to butchers and to individuals.
Cruelty to livestock in Egypt is one of our biggest problems, simply because there is so much livestock. The cruelty in raising, transporting and eventually slaughtering the animals is on such a large scale, because it takes place every day, and to so many animals.
Small Time Shepherds
Twice a year, small-town farmers make their way to the city to sell their sheep, cows ox and camels as part of the Islamic tradition of sacrificing an animal. The meat from the animal is given to the poor as a form of charity.
Before the two feasts, city streets are filled with shepherds leading their flocks of sheep through the city, in search of buyers. The sheep walk through traffic, cross roads and are herded in and out of every possible nook and cranny.
They are usually very badly handled once a sale is made – they’re transported in taxi’s, in car trunks, on donkey carts.
It is common practice for the members of the family who bought the sheep to slaughter it; obviously, most of them are inexperienced in slaughtering practices, and the animals more often than not suffer a slow and painful death.
The Bassateen Slaughterhouse saw one of the biggest scandals in terms of animal cruelty in 2006.
Animals Australia and the World Organization for Animal Healt (OIE)’s Terrestrial Animal Health Code 2005 investigated the practices at the Bassateen Slaughterhouse, leading to termination of the agreement between Egypt and Australia. The OIE represents 167 member countries, including Egypt and Australia.
General Principles of the OIE Animal Welfare Code on Slaughter of Animals for Human Consumption
These guidlienes apply to those domestic animals commonly slaughtered in slaughterhouses, that is: cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, der, horses, pigs, ratites and poultry. Other animals, wherever they have been reared, should be managed to ensure that their transport, lairaging, restraint and slaughter is carried out without causing undue stress to the animals; the principles underpinning these guidelines apply also to these animals Persons engaged in the unloading, moving, lairaging, care, restraining, stunning, slaughter and bleeding ogf animals play an important role in the welfare of those animals. For this reason, there should be a sufficient number of personnel, who should be patient, considerate, competent and familiar with the guidelines outlined in the present
The management of the slaughterhouse and the Veterinary Services should ensure that slaughterhouse staff carry out their tasks in accordance with the principles of animal welfare
Animal handlers should be experienced and competent in handling and moving farm livestock, and understand the behavior patterns of animals and the underlying principles necessary to carry our their tasks
The investigation found the following practices taking place, all of which breached the above code:
Handling and Restraint of Animals Prior to Slaughter:
Cattle had their rear leg tendons slashed to disable them prior to slaughter. Some were required to walk even after this injury.
Cattle were witnessed being stabbed in the eye with a knife Cattle were witnessed having their eyes aggressively poked by slaughter personnel after their throat was cut, and eye sockets used to manipulate heads into position prior to their throat being cut
Blindfolded cattle were moved through the use of a metal pole hitting rear legs and testicles before having leg tendons slashed and slaughtered whilst blindfolded
Cattle were unloaded from small trucks without ramps; cattle were forced to walk backwards and fall from trucks to ground
The Slaughter Process
Repeatedly, animals had their throats cut on more than one occasion; some animals were then cut again as they attempt to stand, stagger about and bleed out, for example 30 seconds after the first cut
Animals were routinely slaughtered in close proximity to other animals and left to bleed out on top of other dying animals
Cases were witnessed of cattle being slaughtered whilst blindfolded
An Australian-installed restraint box was clean and appeared to be unused. Cattle were walked past the restraint box to the other end of the facility. One animal was witnessed to be walked past the restraint box, then restrained and slaughtered by having leg tendons slashed, eye poked and throat slashed again at a 30 second interval after it had risen to its feet and staggered towards the investigator.
Camel slaughter: 3 camels were walked the length of the slaughter hall through carcasses and other dying camels, hit with sticks and had their throats slashed haphazardly while standing, collapsing and dying on each other
Local sheep were slaughtered without use of installed equipment; the ‘manual’ process of slaughter contradicts Islamic principles
In one case a child was allowed to attempt to cut an animal’s throat; the cutting process failed and a slaughterperson then cut the animal’s throat.
In one instance a slaughterperson complained about the sharpness of a knife used for slaughter and a replacement knife was sought
Mutilation of animals occurred during the slaughter process: cattle had their tails cut (close to the body) after the throat had been slashed
Holding and Slaughter Environments and Animal Distress
The slaughter environment at Bassateen introduced a wide range of unnecessary factors which can cause stress to the animals.
For example, animals were fully able to view other animals being killed and dying both prior to and during their own slaughter, as well as the sight and smell of blood.
Many people were present, plus a large amount of visual disturbance. Dying animals were further interfered with via poking and spraying of water (in the latter case by a woman and child).
There was a large amount of noise from equipment and shouting of personnel. Untrained persons were present e.g. families and children. The handling environment was slippery and covered in blood.
Animals were witnessed as being held waiting for slaughter on trucks and lightly tethered.