Every year, at Eid-al-Azha, millions of animals are sacrificed by those who can afford to do so. The purpose is to feed the poor, who in the seventh century were probably 99 percent of the population. In Pakistan, there are people who pay up to a million rupees for a cow (sometimes even more). Does this really help the poor? Or is it meant to prove that they are better off than their relatives and neighbors?

The expensive animals brought to the cities may belong to crooks who indulge in stealing the animals, or buying them cheap from poor people (some years ago, in villages near the Indian border, you could buy a cow for as little as a thousand rupees). These animals are then fed for a few days with weight enhancing foods and drugs like steroids. Gullible people like some of my relatives pay an average of half a million each for cows and camels and a similar amount for goats.

The sacrificial meat is then distributed among their neighbors, relatives and a few poor people, most of whom consume meat throughout the year. So the real purpose of sacrifice is not served.

More than thirty years back, I used to take sacrificial meat every year to my former salt works and distribute it among the poor people in the village nearby. These people used to subsist mainly on small fish that they caught in the salt pans (which they fried in water, as they were too poor to buy cooking oil). On some holy days, we would provide lunch to them and poor folk from the locality would feed on rice and meat. Those were the few times in the year that they could partake of rice and animal meat. At least in this way the meat was given to those who really needed it.

Nowadays, we give away most of the meat to charitable organizations and some of it to the servants. And we buy the goats not for half a million, but for about forty thousand each.