I must warn you that this post contains graphic images of animals being slaughtered. If you are vegan, vegetarian or in any way squeamish, then please do not read it.

If on the other hand you are interested in learning about this special day in the Muslim calendar, you are in luck; your South-east Asian correspondent has gone to great lengths this morning to bring you authentic coverage of Eid al-Adha from her local mosque in Pancoran.

empty-roads-jakarta

prayers

Yesterday evening the whole of Jakarta rang out to the sound of prayers. Mosques everywhere were filled with worshippers and at first light this morning, the football field in front of our apartment started to fill up with Muslim families joining in the communal prayer known as Takbir. As today is a religious holiday, the roads were almost empty and for once there was no roaring traffic thundering in the background.

Despite having a hangover from hell, I made the bold decision to visit our local mosque, where I had been told on good authority from Andy that there would be ritual slaughtering taking place.

Eid al Adha is celebrated by Muslims all over the world to commemorate their belief in Abraham’s willingness to follow God’s command to sacrifice his son Ishmael. According to the Quran, at the moment that Abraham was about to kill his son, Allah stopped him and told him to sacrifice a lamb instead. As Eid al Adha falls at the end of Hajj, the journey of dedication and purification, it is seen as an opportunity for second chances and renewal.

cows-to-be-sold

To mark this special day, Muslims who can afford it, buy a cow or a goat to slaughter.One part is kept for the family and used for a celebration meal, some goes to friends and the last third is distributed to the poor. The act of giving away the meat, along with the communal prayers is an essential part of this day.

Over this past week, Jakarta has been full of livestock. Trucks carrying cows, goats tied up at the side of the roads and makeshift stalls housing cows, all waiting to be sold.

children

bloody-feet

goats

fascinated

I was in two minds about going to the Mosque this morning. A large part of me felt quite sick at the thought but then another part told me not to be stupid. It’s not like I’ve never seen animals being slaughtered, I’ve kept a farm, and I’ve taken plenty of animals to the abbatoir. However I knew that what I was going to witness this morning would be nothing like anything I’d seen or experienced before. Since this is our last full day in Jakarta I felt I wanted to capture something of this religious festival and to be amongst the Muslim people that have been a part of my life now for two years.

mosque-one

hard-work

knife

I knew there would be blood, lots of it but I wasn’t expecting to see live animals just feet away from where their peers where being cut up. Despite the frenzy of activity, noise and amount of families watching, the tethered animals showed no signs of distress as they waited their turn for slaughter. The men worked quickly and skillfully, many of them barefooted and in the mosque itself others sat on the floors sorting the meat into piles. Children chatted excitedly and where not in the least fazed by the goings on around them. The locals were curious about me, but very friendly and there were lots of smiles as I went about taking my photographs. Seeing carcasses being chopped up and intestines and stomachs is one thing but to see this through to the end I felt I should witness an actual Halal slaughter.

under-the-nose

As the beast was untied and led to a firm post, the men encouraged me to go to the front so that I would get a better view. The front and back legs of the cow were tied and then with some dexterity they managed to get the animal down on the ground. The knife was sharpened and the Imam stood with a microphone and chanted prayers. Two other men sat down by the cow and resting a piece of paper on it’s flank they quietly mouthed a blessing. All around there was a hushed silence as then the knife was drawn out of it’s holder and held against the cows outstretched neck. Quick as lightening the cut was made and within seconds blood spurted everywhere,and the final last breaths of life slipped away as the cow bleed to death. Although this sounds horribly grizzly, it was in fact very moving. The four men involved in the slaughter,had been stroking and talking quietly to the cow all the time and not once was it pushed or shoved or treated badly. I’ve witnessed some horribly cruel sights in British livestock markets and abattoirs during the years that I kept a farm but watching this killing this morning and seeing how carefully and respectfully it was done has been an eye-opener.

getting-ready

fear

down

blessing-and-prayers

last-moments

halal

blood

38 Comments

  1. I had to read this with my eyes shut. If I had to be involved in killing my own food I would and probably should be a vegetarian. But see, I am squeamish, lazy, prepared to pretend I don’t know where the meat comes from, meat lover…i’m a low-life. Thanks for the blog…
    I think that religion can help us in treating the animals with reverence and recognize the sacrifice they make for our lives – even though they don’t make that sacrifice willingly. That’s really what saying grace at meal times is about.
    Many in our family have become vegetarian or vegan and I respect them for that choice. But I do still have concerns about making sure their diets are providing them adequate nutrition.
    Interesting fact form the Jewish Bible and Christian Old Testament – the myth (used in its proper sense) of when God created the world, the world was all vegetarian – all green things were provided for man and the animals to eat. The animals didn’t eat one another. It wasn’t till humans mucked things up with their arrogance and desire to be like God (according to the Bible) and after the Great Flood that animals became our food and blood was shed. But blood was always revered as the life-force given by God. Check out Genesis 1 and read about the vegetarian world.
    Wow, don’t know what brought that on! Back to breakfast – it’s ok it’s Wheetabix.

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    1. Rod, this is a sensational and thought-provoking comment, thank you for your in-put and thoughts, as always it’s much appreciated. I have to admit that I’ve had odd periods of being vegetarian through out my life. I’m not sure how right it is to take the life of an animal but like you I chose not to dwell on it too much. This morning was quite sobering, looking into the cows eyes and knowing that within minutes it would be dead made me feel terrible and yet I felt compelled to watch.

      Weetabix are excellent, have you ever tried them with hot milk? πŸ™‚

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    2. I’m with Rod…if I had to cut my dinner’s head off, I’d like be a vegetarian as well. πŸ™‚

      Fascinating post about a world and a ritual that I will likely never see. Thanks, friend!

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  2. Well done Lottie for staying to the end and watching a ceremony that puts paid to any myths of brutality with the normal working Moslem. Proof that the normal people don’t consider us an enemy is that you were showed to the front and treated as an honoured guest. Fundamentalism isn’t everywhere and they are a people capable of great friendliness. You’re going to miss them.
    XXX Huge Hugs XXX

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    1. Thank you, David. Sitting here this morning, just hours away from leaving I am feeling a bit sad. Although I am excited and looking forward to our new life in Spain, I know that I shall miss the cut and thrust of this place. In two years, I have only had a couple of bad experiences, for 99% of the time I’ve only ever felt genuine affection and warmth here in Jakarta. I think this speaks volumes about Indonesians and Muslims in general. You are right, I am going to miss them. Hugs back to you! xoxox

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  3. Waiting for your book about your two year stay in my beloved Indonesia. You wrote it down beautifully Lottie. Compliments. Sorry we did not meet up again. Good luck in Spain.

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  4. thanks for this post. it is an eye opener to me that the animals waiting their turn were not in a panic at the sight and smell of blood. we are led to believe that it is the sight and smell of blood that distress the animals…We have seen modern day slaughter in abbatoirs depicted in films where the animals seem to be in distress. From the fact that they dont get distressed here, i wonder whether they were shown to be more distressed in the films due to them being herded and moved in groups by people prodding them and shoving them rather than leading them individually by the halter.

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    1. Hello! Thanks for your comment πŸ™‚ Large abattoirs are very frightening and scary for animals so I think that the films that you have seen are being truthful – I’ve witnessed some horrible sights in the past and seen some very rough and unpleasant treatment. I suppose what struck me most about yesterday was that it was quite relaxed. This was a religious ceremony after all, and the people watching it were the families who had come to see their particular animal slaughtered. I suppose it’s the same as us choosing a turkey for Christmas or Thanksgiving, but then going along and seeing it being killed – it adds a totally different dimension to everything. I didn’t enjoy any part of what I saw but I’m glad that I went, and it was very nice to be warmly welcomed by my muslim brothers and sisters.

      It’s also important to remember that 2/3 of each animal killed yesterday was given away. How many Christians can boast that they give away at least 1/3 of their turkey to those in need on Christmas day?

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  5. Wow Lottie, I saw this post first thing, coffee in one hand and eyes fixated on decapitated cow. The photo with two kiddies peering over the fence, one wearing a ‘Raptor’ tee is my favourite. I no longer eat red meat for health reasons and to minimise the harm done to animals but occasionally eat white meat and fish. It’s curious how people decide which animals to eat and which to keep as pets or how animal liberation front will attack humans, isn’t humanity full of contradictions? A Hare Krishna follower once told me that it was a sin against God to kill any animal so I stumped him by asking why he was wearing leather shoes! Whenever I watch those nature documentaries, I always want the antelope to outrun the lion πŸ™‚ Maybe I am working towards being a vegetarian. I think it took some courage for you to write this post, well done!

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    1. It probably didn’t help that I had a stonking hangover from a party the night before. Having said that, the smells were minimal and I was greeted so warmly by everyone that I felt honour and duty bound to stay for at least an hour or more.

      Interesting what you say, I’ve been a vegetarian on and off for years – in truth I could live quite happily on vegetables and pulses but I’ve not yet met a husband that could so, because I’m lazy and because I’ve always been chief cook and bottle washer I do the dutiful thing and cook ‘meat and 2 veg’ most nights of the week.

      Baby ‘Raptor’ is my favourite too! They were totally engrossed in what was going on and not in the least bit fazed by the blood and guts that were swimming around on the floor. In fact most of the gets let out a yelp of excitement when they knew that the cow was next in line for the chop.

      I loved hearing about the Hare Krishna and his shoes….moments like that are priceless!

      Humanity is stuffed full of contradictions! Hope we can meet soon George, don’t forget you have an open invitation to Casa Pedro Y Lottie anytime you want xx

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  6. I skipped over the pics and etc. The only meat that I eat is fish simply because I must in order to get enough protein. Anything feathered and hoofed is off limits for me morally and ethically. I would not eat fish if I could stay healthy . I dont care what other people eat. It is everyone’s decision to eat as they choose. This post should make one stop and think about what is needed and about choices.

    Good info for all the meat eaters.

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    1. Dear Yvonne, I’m very surprised that you read the post. I was actually thinking of you more than anyone when I wrote the words of warning at the top. The main point of this post was to write and talk about an important religious Muslim festival.

      All meat here is Halal which means this is the method in which it is killed. Having eaten meat here for 2 years, I felt a sense of duty to see how in fact it is slaughtered.

      Of course it’s horrible that to satisfy meat-eaters craving for flesh, animals have to be killed in the process. There is no getting away from this fact how ever unpalatable the truth is. I respect what you say and I agree that everyone should have a decision to eat as they choose – I think it’s also important to be informed so yes as you rightly say, it is good info for all the meat eaters.

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  7. Thanks for the warning, Lottie. I have never witnessed butchery before. But I took in all the pictures as I felt that I should since I do eat meat. Like Rod, if I had to do it myself I would be a veggie guy which is a bit hypocritical I guess. Some people are just better at that whether by native culture or the ability to not feel the pain of what they are doing. I could or do not on either count. Tried to cut out meat but fail at every attempt. But it was “good” to witness this through your eyes.

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    1. Thank you, Steph. I hope that these Indonesian posts have been of some use, writing them has been fun and I’ve learnt quite a bit myself through the research etc. Off to Spain tomorrow and still so much to do! Have a happy weekend xx

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  8. Great post! I always love your viewpoint of Indonesia, it is always honest and you write it beautifully. And it’s a little bit sad because you are going to move from here soon, but I’m still looking forward on your next experience in new country. Spain, isn’t it?

    Up to this day, I never watch this process and I don’t want to. It’s terrible and I hate to see a lot of blood. You must be very brave watching this! I prefer wait for the meat coming then make “sate” together with my family rather than watch this slaughter.
    thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

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    1. Hello Fiska

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I was really thrilled to hear from you and your kind words mean a lot to me, especially coming from an Indonesian. HIgh praise! I’ve loved my time in Indonesia and I hope that in some small way I have been a ‘good ambassador’ for your wonderful country.

      I’m sitting at the kitchen table in London writing this reply back to you, it feels very strange not being in Jakarta but I’m excited about our new adventure. We leave tomorrow for Spain. As soon as I have internet up and running there, I shall start posting again – this time from a little village amongst the olive groves πŸ™‚

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    1. Indeed, Sarah. I have to admit that I was feeling very emotional anyway as it was our last day in Jakarta. Although it wasn’t at all pleasant seeing the slaughter, it did a good job in educating me about halal meat and for that I’m grateful, The families gathered around where so lovely and smiley and went out of their way to make me feel welcome – I’m glad that I went even if it meant having to put on a brave face!

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  9. Yes, the slaughter of animals is a ritual that no matter how, it can’t be done without the dying of the animal. I always thought that mulesing sheep is very cruel. Australia is the only country where that is done.
    Very brave of you to give us the report with photos.
    I feel sure, the killing is done as quickly and humanely as possible.

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    1. Gerard, I’ve never heard of mulesing, I’m going to have to look it up. Thanks for saying I was brave, I thought I was brave too! It’s not something I ever want to watch again, once was enough, but I can vouch for the fact that it was done quickly, and humanely.

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  10. It’s a good thing blogs don’t automatically come with sounds and aromas! Brave to go and see that, I doubt I could have. I hope you’re settling into your new life ok (and importantly, got a loo sorted out to your satisfaction), and look forward to your first update in due course.

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    1. Thanks, Hayley. I’m still using a bucket 😦 but slowly, slowly things are starting to come together. I’m longing to write about it all but I need a dry, warm, clean dust-free space to do it in – maybe in a couple of weeks. Sorry if I’ve been bad about keeping up with your posts, I’ll be back in the loop soon, I promise. xxx

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  11. Lottie, I am impressed that you stayed till the end. Incredible photos. I should be vegetarian, too… I hope you’ll continue to blog in Spain. I cannot wait to see your updates from the beautiful country!

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    1. Thank you, Kaho and sorry to only just get back to responding to your comment. It’s been pure craziness here for a month now and I’m not online as much as I would like but I’ll be posting soon.Waiting for the builders, drills, rubble, dust and filth to subside! It’s hard to hear myself think, let alone write in this madness but hopefully it will all be worth it! πŸ™‚

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