RANGOON — The Mandalay Division government has agreed to a request by Buddhist nationalists to prevent ritual cattle slaughter for Friday’s Eid-al-Adha celebrations, and will ask Muslims to instead sacrifice goats to mark the religious event, according to a government official
The Upper Burma branch of Ma Ba Tha, known in English as the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, sent an official letter of request to the divisional government last week calling for an end to the practice of ritual cattle sacrifice.
“On the occasion of Eid, we feel very uncomfortable to see that many cows, including farm cows, are mercilessly beheaded,” the letter read. “Thanks to the killing, each year we lose many cows, the working companion of farmers and a true benefactor of human beings.”
The letter was signed by four leading Buddhist monks, including prominent Ma Ba Tha figure U Wirathu. It cites the teachings of Ledi Sayadaw, whose campaign to stop cattle slaughter at the end of the 19th century widely influenced Burmese nationalists during the colonial area.
A senior official from the Mandalay Division government confirmed on Wednesday that they had received the letter. He told The Irrawaddy that orders had been sent to district and township administrators to instruct Muslim communities to use goats instead of cattle, and reduce the number of animals slaughtered to mark Eid.
“We don’t want it to affect their religion,” the official told The Irrawaddy, referring to Muslim Eid celebrations. “So we told them to reduce the numbers of animal killed. We want them to cut the numbers down in half as Burma is an agricultural country.”
“Our country has a Buddhist majority. We are supposed to fulfil the requests of the majority,” he added.
Last week, an investigative report by Myanmar Now revealed that Ma Ba Tha had closely collaborated with Irrawaddy Division officials to shut down Muslim-owned slaughterhouses in the region.
Cattle rescued from the abattoirs was shipped and donated to Arakanese Buddhist farmers working in the predominantly Muslim northern Arakan State township of Maungdaw, on the border of Bangladesh. Win Shwe, a Ma Ba Tha secretary in Rangoon, told Myanmar Now that the initiative was part of an attempt to safeguard the area against “the influx of Muslims”.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, U Wirathu said that Ma Ba Tha was seeking a total ban of cattle slaughter across Burma, a resolution first reached at the association’s two-year anniversary conference in June.
“Killing has nothing to do with religion, and that’s why we have requested the ban,” he said. “Rather than killing cattle and distributing their meat, they should donate the money that they would spend on the sacrifice.”
U Wirathu said that Ma Ba Tha had yet to receive a reply to last week’s letter from the government. He added that the association had sent another letter to government issues in the time since, asking for action to be taken if the number of animals sacrificed exceeded official permission and to shut down any religious building that hosted a ritual cattle sacrifice.