A debate over religious animal sacrifices

By Charles Sercombe
Updating the city’s animal ordinance has turned out to be no ordinary task.
An issue arose when some in the city’s Muslim community noticed that, in a proposed update of the ordinance, the sacrificing of animals is prohibited.
The proposed ordinance was put together by a three-member city council sub-committee.
Some in the Muslim community are demanding that the city allow it because it is a practice that is part of their faith, especially during the Eid holiday.
“We want to practice our religion,” said one resident at a recent city council meeting.
But another resident, a non-Muslim, objected to the practice.
“This practice, while sacred to some, would be extremely offensive and traumatizing to others,” she said.
Others also objected, saying that slaughtering goats and other animals in backyards would cause a health hazard from spilled blood, animal feces, entrails and carcasses in garbage cans.
It was also pointed out that the ordinance prohibits the keeping of animals like goats, chickens, pigs, horses, cows, sheep and other livestock, which would prevent bringing a live animal into the city.
State law also prohibits the killing of animals except for facilities that process meats for public consumption, and other exceptions.
The Review contacted the state Office of Attorney General to see if there is a state law prohibiting the sacrificing of animals for religious reasons.
Amber McCann, a representative of the department, replied:
“This appears to be a legal question and the department does not provide general legal advice. You may wish to follow up with the city council and/or legal counsel for the city of Hamtramck.”
The Review reached out to City Attorney James Allen but he did not respond.
However, he did say the council could allow the sacrificing of animals for religious reasons.
In 1993, the US Supreme Court ruled that religious animal sacrifices are allowed and protected under the First Amendment that, in part, provides that “Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise.”
Councilmember Mohammed Hassan, who is a Muslim, as are the entire council and the mayor, suggested a compromise by allowing the slaughtering of animals in a designated location in the city.
Councilmember Nayeem Choudhury, who is on the sub-committee revising the ordinance, said the city should allow animal sacrificing in order to make “accommodations” for those of the Muslim faith.
However, he bristled at the suggestions being made just as council was set to hold a public hearing and then vote on the ordinance. He said any additions or deletions should have been raised when the council did an initial review of the ordinance a few weeks ago.
Mayor Ameer Ghalib also agreed on some kind of compromise because he had heard that there would be a lawsuit filed against the city if the practice is not allowed.
As for the practice itself, Ghalib said the community has to keep an open mind.
“Sometimes some practices may not make sense to you,” he said. “You may think that people who worship cows are crazy, but it’s a sacred thing to them.”
In one response to those opposed, Nasr Hussain, a resident who supported Ghalib for mayor, said on a Facebook page called Hamtramck Square that opposition to the practice smacks of being racist.
“Dear racists in Hamtramck: FYI, hundreds of Muslims already sacrifice animals in Hamtramck every year in their homes disproving the lies you’re spewing that Hamtramck will turn into a dirty city because it’s already happening and Hamtramck is still in a great shape,” Hussain said.
With all that said, the council has tabled the ordinance for further review. There is no timetable for when this issue will be coming back up for consideration.

Posted Aug. 12, 2022

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