Egypt hosts meeting on animal transport

Oct 24, 2008

Millions of sheep suffer, and many die, during long journeys from Australia to the Middle East every year

This month, a conference in Cairo explored the relationship between Islam, animal welfare, and the long distance transport of animals for slaughter. Discussions showed this cruel and unnecessary trade is increasingly under the spotlight.

The two-day meeting, on ‘The Islamic Principles on Animal Transport and Slaughter’, was organized by the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends and supported by WSPA on behalf of Handle with Care.

It included presentations and workshops on slaughterhouses, the effects of transportation on animals, and international guidelines from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) (whose own conference in Egypt followed this and touched on some of the same issues).

Transported animals take center stage

The eminence of the speakers reflected how seriously the debate is being taken in the region.

They included three Sheikhs from the prestigious Al-Ahzar University, Prof Dr Nasser Farid Wasef, former Egypt Mufti (the country’s foremost scholarly office), the Jordanian Minister of Religious Affairs, and HRH Princess Alia Al Hussein.

The Jordanian princess said: "I am calling on Arab countries to implement legislation in line with the mercifulness of Islam. Islam advocates mercifulness to animals before and at the time of slaughter and condemns acts of cruelty."

Her comments echoed the fatwa issued by Dr Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Grand Sheik of Al-Ahzar University, which stated that the cruelty of long distance transport and bad slaughter practices oppose the teachings of the Qur'an.

Good news for animals

At the end of the conference, delegates agreed that the teachings of the Qur'an and the internationally agreed OIE guidelines on transport and slaughter basically address the same issues. This is a solid foundation for the Handle with Care campaign to build on.

Participants also accepted the existence of alternatives to importing large numbers of animals. These options already serve the region: the Egyptian army, for example, prefer supplies of frozen meat due to its reliability.

Sofia Parente of WSPA commented: "Many countries in the region already import frozen and chilled meat, for example from Australia, and we would like to see the transport of live animals progressively replaced with this trade.”

The suspension of the import of live animals from Syria due to animal disease was also cited as a reason why reliance on live animal imports was unwise.

Advocating for compassion

A final conference outcome came in the form of a recommendation from Al-Ahzar University, which – recognizing the widespread cruelty to animals in many countries in the Islamic world – called for conditions for animals during transport, slaughter, and rearing to be brought in line with the original teachings of the Qur'an, which advocate compassion.

Summarizing the conference, Ms Parente said: “WSPA is excited to see so many voices raised against the cruelty of long distance transport and bad slaughter practices and the growing recognition that there is an alternative."

WSPA is a member of the Handle with Care coalition. Learn more about the campaign >>

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