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Family asks city to allow animal slaughtering for religious reasons

Mohammed Battah speaks to the Hudson Public Safety Committee about killing a sheep at his family’s home as part of a religious ceremony. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Randy Hanson)

The Public Safety Committee of the Hudson City Council last week recommended against allowing a Muslim family to kill a lamb at their home as part of a religious ceremony.

Mohammed Battah, a UW-River Falls student who lives with his parents in the Lighthouse subdivision off Stageline Road, brought the request to the committee.

Battah asked the city to grant a religious exception to an ordinance prohibiting the “harboring” of any livestock.

“We are practicing Muslims. On occasion, my parents (Menal Alabood and Abdalraheem Battah) would like to slaughter an animal (e.g. sheep) in the sacrificial tradition of Abraham – the father of Arabs and Jews,” Battah said in a written request to committee chairperson Randy Morrissette II.

Battah told the committee that his Palestinian family came to the United States from Jordan in 2001 for the educational and economic opportunities here.

About 12 years ago, the family settled in a house in Hudson built by Habitat for Humanity. Mohammed Battah went through the public school system and is a Hudson High School graduate.

“We love our town and its people,” he said in the email message to Morrissette. “It has been a perfect town for us.”

Battah told the committee that the sheep would be purchased from an area farmer and killed by having its throat cut in the garage of the family home. The animal would be on the property for only 24 to 72 hours, he said.

He said the sheep would be sacrificed as part of a religious observance following Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting. The meat would be eaten by the family and guests, he said.

“In Islam, this is a religious matter that is taken very seriously,” Battah wrote to Morrissette. “The slaughter has strict rules and traditions that address proper intent, humane treatment of the animal to minimize discomfort and pain, and responsible consumption that minimizes waste.”

The committee voted 2-1 to recommend against allowing a religious exception to the ordinance prohibiting livestock from being kept in the city.

Municipal Code Chapter 99, titled “Animals,” doesn’t appear to address the slaughtering of livestock. But it does prohibit the slaughter of chickens under Section 99-21, which establishes the rules for a limited number of backyard chicken coops in the city.

Committee member Rich Vanselow made the motion to deny Battah’s request and was the most adamant in his opposition to it.

He said allowing animal slaughtering for religious purposes would open the doors to all kinds of things, including Satanic ceremonies.

Committee member Jim Webber initially seconded Vanselow’s motion, but later withdrew his second and voted against the motion.

He wanted to allow Battah to research and provide information at a future meeting on how cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, with large Muslim populations, handle religious animal slaughtering.

Committee chairperson Morrissette joined Vanselow in recommending not to allow livestock slaughtering.

Vanselow said the Battahs should go outside of the city to perform the ceremony, where livestock slaughtering isn’t prohibited by law.

Battah’s uncle, Abdalla Battah of Baldwin, said it is harder than people might think to find a farmer willing to allow an Islamic ceremony to be conducted on his property.

“If you step in the shoes looking like me, you are going to run into a lot of suspicion,” he said.

Mohammed Battah asked for the committee to delay the vote until he could return with information on how other cities deal with the religious slaughter of animals.

Vanselow stood by his motion, however, which was seconded by Morrissette after Webber withdrew his support.

Vanselow said he didn’t want to drag out the issue, knowing that the council wouldn’t approve of livestock slaughtering in the city.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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