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State Blocks Muslim Celebration Involving Animal Slaughter

Posted December 15, 2007 6:57 p.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2007 1:46 p.m. EST

— A judge has told a Johnston County farmer that he cannot open his farm to Muslim families planning to slaughter lambs as part of an annual religious celebration.

The judge issued a 10-day injunction Friday, meaning that about 250 Muslim families in Wake County will have to make other arrangements for slaughtering lambs they bought in advance of the three-day Festival of the Sacrifice, which begins on Wednesday.

Kenneth and Eddie Rowe have tangled before with the state over the mass slaughter of lambs on their 300-acre farm. They said they have been conducting the slaughtering in their 80x100 barn for the past six years.

In 2005, the Rowes preserved their right to carry on the tradition. The state Department of Agriculture fined them $10,000 for the practice the same year, but the Rowes have not yet paid it.

State agriculture officials said the Rowes must build a custom slaughter facility. The two men say that would cost $740,000. State officials said mass slaughters conducted any other way are unsanitary and threaten an outbreak of disease.

Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, marks the end of hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam's most holy city. Because the holiday is set to a lunar calendar, the date on which it is celebrated changes by 11 days each year.

The lamb slaughter commemorates the day when Muslims believe God allowed the patriarch Abraham to sacrifice a ram, instead of his son. Muslims believe the son to be sacrificed was Ishmael, rather than Isaac as recorded in the Christian Old Testament.

A mass prayer service on the State Fairgrounds has preceded the slaughter on the Rowes' farm in the past.

Eddie Rowe said he and his father plan to fight this court ruling, although the injunction prevents them from returning to court until it is over. They have considered selling the Muslim families land on which to perform the ceremony.

Eddie Rowe said sending the lambs – which cost around $32,000 – to slaughterhouses is not acceptable option, because the families then could not watch.