By Charles Sercombe
In an expected move, a majority of city councilmembers and the mayor voted at Tuesday’s council meeting in favor of allowing animal slaughtering to be conducted at homes.
The council had been wrestling with this issue for several months.
The practice of animal slaughtering is allowed in the context of a religious observance.
At Tuesday’s meeting, which ran for over three hours, a number of residents spoke both for, and against, the practice.
Those who are for it argue that it’s their First Amendment right to practice their religion. For those of the Muslim faith, animal slaughtering happens at Eid, the festival held at the end of the Ramadan fasting month, and the sacrificed animal’s meat is consumed.
The general practice among Muslims is to slaughter lambs or goats, but there is nothing in the city ordinance that bars the slaughter of cows or pigs.
The new city ordinance is also open to those of other faiths to also be allowed to slaughter animals, which could conceivably happen at any time of the year.
Noir Ali of the organization CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) threatened to take legal action if the city prohibited the custom.
“Muslims are protected in other cities, and deserve to be protected here as well,” Ali said.
Those against the practice say they fear that public sanitation will be compromised, from animal waste, because of the city’s dense housing.
Mohammed Islam said that allowing home animal sacrifices will be “catastrophic.”
“It’s not safe nor humane,” he said. “Our city is dirty enough. We don’t want to make it more dirty.”
Others have argued that home butchering must be done carefully because its easy to contaminate the meat.
Mayor Amer Ghalib stressed that he is trying to avoid a lawsuit being filed against the city. He voted in favor of allowing the practice.
City Attorney Odel Meroueh said that a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibits banning the religious practice.
That decision came out of a case in Florida, where those of an obscure religious faith challenged a local law outlawing the practice.
While many have pointed to that court decision being decisive on the matter, there are others who argue that it’s not that cut and dry.
In a paper published by the Michigan State University College of Law, attorney Shannon L. Doheny argued that the decision “may be the most misunderstood legal precedent in recent history.
“The decision is often cited for the proposition that religious practitioners have a constitutional right to engage in animal sacrifice,” Doheny said.
“This is far from the truth.”
In passing the update to the city’s animal ordinance, there was still one noted prohibition, based on state law, which is that the animal slaughtering must be done humanely.
However, it has been argued that, in order to prosecute someone for not following state law, incidents must be reported.
Residents here will also be required to properly dispose of the animal waste.
The council’s action Tuesday attracted Detroit-area news outlets. The reaction from many in the metro area has been one of dismay at the decision.
In this most recent vote, those in favor of allowing animal sacrifices were Councilmembers Nayeem Choudhury, Mohammed Hassan, Amanda Jaczkowski and Mayor Ghalib.
Councilmembers Mohammed Alsomiri and Muhith Mahmood voted against the ordinance because they wanted to postpone the matter for further research.
Councilmember Khalil Refai was absent.
Posted Jan. 13, 2023