Freelance butchers caught illegally slaughtering animals face prosecution in a nationwide campaign by health officials during the Eid holiday.
As demand surges at this time of year, so does the risk to health from disease and lack of hygiene when animals are killed outside licensed abattoirs.
"Slaughtering livestock and other animals in public outside the authorised abattoirs in the emirate will spread serious diseases to humans," said Khalifa al Rumaithi, the director of public health in Abu Dhabi municipality.
"We are planning to increase the fines against such practices and refer the cases to court in order to put an end to these activities and protect public health and the environment."
Dubai municipality has intensified food inspections during the Eid holiday. The Food Control Department will check all shops, butcheries, hypermarkets, co-operative societies, and fruit and vegetable markets to ensure hygiene conditions are of the highest standards.
"This should not just be because it is Eid. They [food establishments] should be following health and safety guidelines throughout the year," a department official said.
The department has also teamed up with the Veterinary Services Section to collect random samples for testing to ensure meat is free from harmful bacteria.
"Fresh meat will quickly get contaminated. Roaming butchers do not take care of the cleanliness of their tools and do not comply with the requirements of public health," said Ahmed al Shammari, the head of the municipality's Abattoirs Section, which is working with the Markets Section to ensure a smoothe flow of livestock within markets and slaughterhouses.
In Sharjah, anyone witnessing animals being killed outside authorised slaughterhouses is urged to call the 993 toll-free emergency number, Dr Rasha Ahmed al Qassimi, the municipality's deputy director general of public health, said.
"Animals slaughtered in residential areas or on streets can have diseases that can spread to people," Dr al Qassimi said. "We are being more strict this time, with a group of our inspectors looking out for those slaughtering animals outside the abattoirs."
"We have enough preparation to respond to all requests promptly," she said. "No one should deceive you that our butchers are overcrowded and risk your lives and those of others by slaughtering outside abattoirs."
Sharjah has also organised awareness campaigns to warn residents not to buy animals slaughtered outside the law.
Dr al Qassimi said congestion had been reduced at the emirate's central slaughterhouse after a computerised system was introduced last Ramadan.
Umm al Qaiwain authorities said municipality inspectors would be on the lookout for illegal slaughterhouses. Abu Baker Makki, a veterinary doctor and inspector at the emirate's central abattoir, said freelance slaughters carried the risk of killing a sick animal, or doing so in an unclean place.
"You must have your animal examined before and after slaughter so hygienic conditions are assured," he said. "It is illegal to sell any meat in the market when the animal was not slaughtered in a registered abattoir."
Despite the warnings, some are still torn between their religious obligation to participate in the slaughter and handing all the work to approved butchers. "Slaughter is part of my religious obligation and I should physically take part," said Ahmed al Bayati, an Iraqi resident of Sharjah.
Saeed Ali, an Emirati living in UAQ, said he was worried about queues on the first day of Eid. "I have not slaughtered on the first day of Eid for the last three years," he said. "The abattoirs are full and I have to do it on the second day."
From November 1 to 10, about 50,000 head of sheep entered the country, the Ministry of Environment and Water said yesterday according to the WAM state news agency. More shipments of livestock were expected within the next three days to meet the demand for sacrificial animals during Eid, WAM reported.
Last month, the ministry said about 55,000 head of goats and 36,000 head of sheep were imported.
The ministry noted that five per cent of the total inbound shipments of living animals from January to October were not allowed into the country because of infection with contagious diseases like ruminants plague and foot-and-mouth disease, WAM reported.