At the end of July, Turkey will join the rest of the Muslim world in celebration of Qurban Bayram which is traditionally celebrated by the slaughter of animals and the donation of their meat to the poor in a symbol of solidarity. This year, however, the event will be a slightly more muted affair in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts, meanwhile, are seeking to assuage public fears that the slaughtering process could increase the risk of a further spread. Professor Murat Arslan, head of Istanbul Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons, says the virus cannot be transmitted from animals – though he still urges caution.
The holiday, in which every Muslim who can afford to is obliged to sacrifice an animal, usually sees an exodus of urban populations to their hometowns to visit relatives, while many others head to vacation resorts in the Mediterranean and Aegean regions. Bazaars for the sale of sacrificial animals are also set up in cities and attract a large number of customers. Bazaars have already been opened under strict measures, including social distancing requirements and mask-wearing. Customers have also been urged to ditch customs such as sealing a sale with a lengthy handshake while shopping.
Arslan cites a barrage of misinformation about the link between sacrificial animals and COVID-19 as the cause of concerns. “We already know you cannot get infected from pets. The same applies to sacrificial animals (sheep, cows etc.). Even if an animal is infected, the virus cannot live long on that animal. There is no scientific evidence showing the transmission of the virus from animals to humans, but people should be careful during the animal’s transportation and the distribution of meat,” Arslan told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday, pointing out that even if the meat contained traces of the virus, this would be eliminated by the cooking process. Scientists say the virus cannot survive temperatures much higher than that of the human body.
Marketplaces remain a risk, according to Arslan, despite a number of safety measures, including single entry/exit points and wearing protective equipment at all times. To prevent crowding, he recommends sellers deliver the bought animal to the buyer only at the slaughterhouse upon appointment.
“There can be appointment-only slaughters. Usually, people tend to slaughter animals on the first day of the three-day holiday, and this leads to crowds. If butchers work upon appointment only, however, instead of accepting people waiting in line, it will ease crowding,” he says. He also recommends carrying out the slaughtering process at night too – an uncommon practice in Turkey.