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Business caters to Muslim immigrants seeking to fulfill ritual animal sacrifices

After seeing some customers saving goats' livers and heads, he started to supply plastic bags.

And after observing an elderly Greek man cut a hole in a goat's leg and breathe air into the carcass to separate the skin from the meat, Schiner equipped his farm with an air hose.

During Eid al-Adha, the annual Festival of the Sacrifice, the line at Schiner's farm stretches several hours long, including Muslims from four continents. Muslims slaughter animals at that time to recall the trial that Ibrahim faced when God commanded that he kill his son as a sacrifice.

Other farms have shied away from such rituals. "Some farmers have no interest in catering to people who don't look like them," said Susan Schoenian, a sheep and goat specialist at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center.

Three years ago, when Sandra Miller, who sells goat at D.C. farmers markets, advertised her on-farm slaughter services in Carlisle, Pa., she was approached by men from a nearby American Legion post. "You're a terrorist," she recalled them saying. "Why are you catering to those damn Muslims?"

Goat slaughter, she learned, has become an unlikely subject of a post-Sept. 11 culture clash. Miller has scaled down her on-farm slaughter operations.

Schiner, by contrast, renovated a corner of his barn for ritual slaughter, with a drain for the animals' blood. On the wall, he hung a poster with instructions on the process. But sometimes, when inexperienced slaughterers show up, printed instructions are insufficient.

"Sometimes people show up who have no idea what they're doing," Schiner said. "They usually wait for someone with experience." Occasionally, they try to muscle through the slaughter themselves, as Schiner looks on, pained.

Bathtub butchery

To avoid the messy nature of on-farm slaughter, many customers take home live animals and slaughter them in residential bathtubs and garages. "We hold the animal on the garage floor and make sure the blood goes into the drain or the bushes," said Waqar Farhat, who grew up slaughtering animals in the hallway of his home in Pakistan.

Some of Farhat's friends slaughter goats in their showers. "But they clean up very well afterwards," he said.

Still, when non-Muslim neighbors discover these makeshift slaughterhouses in their midst, reactions can be sharp. In Prince William County a few years ago, when residents reported that ritual slaughter attracted a flock of vultures to their Haymarket neighborhood, authorities cracked down on the practice.

Customers slaughter their own animals in part to be certain that the killing follows Islamic law. "If we don't do the sacrifice ourselves, how do we know the meat is really halal?" Farhat said. He used to sacrifice animals at a slaughterhouse in Prince William before discovering that the owners slaughtered pigs with the same equipment -- a fundamental infraction of Islamic law, which prohibits eating pork.


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