ABU DHABI // More than 1,000 animals had been slaughtered at the public Al Mina abattoir by noon yesterday, and 3,000 more were expected to have met a similar fate by the end of the first day of Eid Al Adha.
Thousands of residents waited in a queue that snaked around the block for their turn at the slaughterhouse, which charges Dh15 per head to butcher lambs, goats, and sheep.
Dozens of vendors lined the nearby streets, selling animals, plastic bags and rope for leads from the backs of pick-up trucks.
For some, this hustle and bustle, although part of the government-approved process, took away from the tradition of slaughtering the animals at home.
In the Hadbat Al Zafranah area, three Yemeni men butchered animals in sandy space between several houses as a holiday gift to their family and neighbours.
Tied upside down next to a dusty piece of corrugated roofing, a butchered lamb will feed between three and four families, they said. So long as the carcass is looked after, there should be no problem, said one of the men, who did not want his name used.
"They [the municipality] say don't do it outside, but as long as it [the area] is clear, and the animal is clean, we do it," he said. "We have heard stories, but we have never been caught."
The process, which takes 30 minutes to an hour, involves no plastic gloves or aprons, no running water, and no protection from the sun. Several bowls on the sand, directly beneath the lamb, contained the remnants of skin and fat.
Although the temperature was about 30°C, the animal would be safe to eat, said another of the men, who has slaughtered sheep in this manner once a year since moving to Abu Dhabi 12 years ago.
"We used fresh water, and cleaned it four times. We cleaned with every step," he said.
Another capital resident, who lives in the Al Nahyan area, said she had seen some neighbours toss away goat fur and skin in a communal rubbish bin.
"Is that safe?" asked the woman, who did not her name used. "The blood is on the pavement, and they just wash it into the street. How do they know the goat wasn't sick?"
Khaleefa Al Romaithi, the director of public health at the municipality, said it was illegal for animals to be butchered at home. However, the municipality will not enter private homes and mostly relies on resident complaints.
The municipality received at least three complaints yesterday, but investigators made no arrests.
"A home butcher might not know that he has a sick goat," Mr Al Romaithi said.
"You want to do something good for God, so you have to make sure that you are doing things the right way."
Home butchers face prosecution and a Dh2,000 fine.
Wael Al Khatib, who was waiting in the queue at the municipal abattoir, pushing a wheelbarrow holding two live goats, said he preferred to bring his animals to the municipality.
"It is cleaner and cheaper," Mr Al Khatib said.
"It takes a long time, but I feel safer knowing that my goats have been checked."
Though business will slow during the remaining days of Eid, Mr Al Romaithi said he expected the slaughterhouse to perform thousands more slaughters this week.