Sacrificing a Goat in Turkey for Kurban Bayram

This week had led to a flurry of activity in markets all over Turkey. Cattle farmers are busy as communities gear themselves up for a four day festival that will start on Sunday called Kurban Bayram. The cattle farmers will experience their busiest week of the year as all over the country, goats, sheep and cows are sold in order to be sacrificed according to Islamic rules and traditions.

Kurban Bayram in Turkey

(Update: For 2014, I will not be taking part in Kurban Bayram, lasting from October the 4th to October 7th)

On Sunday, I will dress in my oldest and drab clothes (bear with me- there is a reason why I am wearing old clothes), then head to friends and family to join in with this age-old religious tradition. My role in the celebration is simple.

I will stand and listen while a verse from the Quran is read. The throat of the sheep will then be slit and the blood drained into a hole in the ground. Once this has been done, I will join in with the other women to clean and cut the animal up, hence why I am not dressed in my best gear.

A certain amount of the meat will be allocated to the poor. Neighbors who have not had the opportunity to purchase an animal will be given some and the rest will be divided between the families. I have gone past the stage when my stomach turns while this ritual is being performed. I suppose if you experience something often enough, you get used to it.

Sheep shopping

Meaning of  Kurban Bayram : Feast of the Sacrifice

The traditional animal to use is a goat  or sheep however families that have joined together may find themselves with enough money to upgrade to a meatier and plump cow. Sunday will be spent performing this ritual while the following days are spent visiting friends and family as well as attending the mosque.

Kurban Bayram in Turkey is known as the Sacrifice holiday and is a major event in the Islamic calendar.  The significance relates to the occasion in the Quran when Abraham was ready to sacrifice his own son on the command of God. God interrupted the act and Abraham used a sheep instead however the celebration occurs to show the dedication of Abraham and his acknowledgement that God is everything.

Animal Cruelty versus Religion

Of course, there are those who argue that this practice is outdated and on the verge of animal cruelty. I have mulled this argument over in my mind many times.

However I cannot buy into the aspect that it is animal cruelty because for me, it is all or nothing. I eat chicken, beef and lamb which I buy from my local supermarket. I am fully aware that I do not know the source of those animals, the conditions that they were kept in and how they died.

I feel it would be quite hypocritical of me to shout about animal cruelty on this day and then continue to buy meat from unknown sources. I would have to give up meat all together and become a vegetarian of which I am not prepared to do.

Kurban Bayram?

On Your Holiday

If you find yourself in Turkey during Kurban Bayram, the chances are that you will not actually see the sacrifice of animals unless you head off to the rural areas. The only way it will affect you, is that travel on public transport will be hectic and most business will be closed. In the tourist areas,  bars and restaurants will probably stay open.

Muslims who are unable to attend the celebrations may instead give money to the poor while non-practising Muslims will spend the day as normal. There is the suggestion made by some that in many years to come this celebration will become outdated and not practised any-more. I do not believe this however in your eyes, if it did stop would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

If you are in Turkey, how are you affected by Kurban Bayram?

(photos – courtesy of Flickr)

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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an Internet addict with a passion for history. Read my story here or leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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  1. says

    Yes I also knows about this festival of Muslims. In India it is called “EID”. It is the biggest festival of Muslims. It is also called “Bakreid” means Goat EID. On this occasion Muslims sacrificed the Male goat and then they eat him. Your comment is very Interesting. Its very nice Blog.

  2. says

    I guess the question is about the skill of the man killing the animal. I understand that the slaughter of any animal in Turkey by the untrained is illegal but, of course, the authorities turn a blind eye at this time of year. Being a lilly-livered Brit, I couldn’t watch it myself. I was brought up on meat neatly stacked in polystyrene trays on supermarket shelves! This is probably why I can’t eat fish that looking back at me on a plate.
    Jack Scott wrote about..Life’s Good

    • says

      Now Jack – If a fish is not delivered to me on a plate with the head and tail intact, I start questioning if I really want to eat it. Over the years, my eating habits have changed considerably.

      Yes, the authorities do turn a blind eye at this time of the year. If they did not, can you image the amount of people that would be in the police cells!
      Natalie wrote about..Welcome to Cirali

  3. says

    . . good post Natalie, and well said. It doesn’t sit well when many of those who criticise this form of animal slaughter go on to consume various meats from industrial farmers/producers. Check out how animals are treated in the ‘civilised’ West on this link – then either put up or shut up
    Alan wrote about..Tripping In Amasra

  4. says

    For me it has to be all or nothing Alan – If you are going to be a supporter of animal cruelty then you must also check your clothing for leather as well as the shampoo, shower gels and make up that you will use. What a huge task!
    Natalie wrote about..The Blue Cave and Kostos the Greek

  5. Carole Meads says

    I’ve lived in Bodrum for 7 years. I eat meat bought from the supermarket. (Like Jack) I couldn’t kill an animal to eat and certainly don’t wish to witness the sacrifice (often done badly by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing). It is outdated and these days when you can pre order your already butchered meat from Kipa why does anyone still feel the need for this act? I doubt it is wholly religious…how many non practicing Christians still celebrate Christmas? By all means have a Bayram and get the family together but really!

    • says

      Hi Carole,

      Thanks for your comment. There is the aspect that the sacrifice is done by someone who does not know what they are doing however from what I understand, the male members are taught as they are growing up so it is not just a case of one year they have to cut the sheep when they have never seen it done before. This is done because the animal has to be scarified according to a certain way.

      I feel that for a lot it is still religious, after all it is a big thing to do and expensive. A few Muslims that I know who feel it is outdated will give money to the poor instead, the rest do it as a religious act and they are fully practising Muslims.
      Natalie wrote about..Butterfly Valley

    • Julie Durrant says

      Totally agree…..I’m vegetarian …wish turkey would get rid of this medieval practices

  6. says

    Its nice to hear that you will be taking part in the Sacrifice. To many people are quick to say its cruel when it is a very quick and painless way of killing an animal.

    We wont be doing our own Sacrifice this year but hope to do it next year when we are with all the family,so we are having a couple of nice steaks instead :)

    Will share this article as it is written from such a great prospective. Iyi Bayramlar.

  7. says

    I’m with you, I’m a country girl, I’ve helped animals into this world and helped them out, it is a life long duty and a responsibility.

    Here in the village I have only ever seen animals killed efficiently and with respect and in accordance with the rules of the quran.

    Enjoy Bayram, I’m looking forward to my portion of goat from the neighbours :-)

    Karen wrote about..Winter Flights to Turkey

    • says

      Yes, every year, and I’ve yet to see an incompetent killing because frankly make a mess of it and you’re likely to get seriously injured yourself. These are not small animals.

      You’re more than welcome any time.

      Karen wrote about..Getting your Residents Permit in Aydin

  8. says

    A fascinating insight into a culture and one of its rituals/holidays I understad what you are saying about the killing of the goat also.

    I have withnessed a few myself either with Ghurkas for their own festivals or as part of survival training. It is a way of life and if carried out correctly suffering is minimal.
    Iain Mallory wrote about..Berber Desert Odyssey – Campfires, Camels and Starlight

  9. phil + Di marina gateway says

    im with you on this one its all or nothing for me too i eat meat and dont ask where it comes from so who am i to judge
    if im understanding this right this is the muslim christmas do they swop gifts aswell ???
    where are you going for kurban bayram are you staying in Altinkum

    • says

      It is the biggest celebration of the year Di. Some people will buy presents but the shops will be full as well, with people buying new clothes. I am off to Soke for Bayram. Just for the day though. Back to work on Monday!
      Natalie wrote about..Setting Off On My South Western Tour

  10. phil + Di marina gateway says

    i thought you may be going to Soke because cooking is not your strong point is it ha ha
    have a lovely day im looking forward to reading all about it .x

  11. says

    I eat all kinds of meat myself, and when it comes to traditions I don’t think there is anything wrong with following them. That’s the thing with traditions-if no one continued them then they’d be forgotten. I would love to witness a local tradition if I was lucky enough to do so.
    Mica wrote about..Photo Flashback of the week: Isla Palomino

    • says

      Hi Mica, witnessing local traditions is one of the highlights of traveling I think. It makes the experience all more memorable.
      Natalie wrote about..Butterfly Valley

  12. Cindy Clark says

    I live in Turkey and love it but I thiink if you love the country you have adopted you must also adopt their culture Kuban Bayram is very important to the local people so why should the Brits get on their high horse just accept please we are all different in our own ways.

  13. says

    I agree with you Natalie that animal cruelty and eating meat are very different. I always have chicken or beef daily and I don’t think that constitute animal cruelty right away. Oh and its interesting article about Kurban Bayram. It’s always interesting to learn about new culture or tradition.

  14. Julianne Goepfert says


    I think that deep down, you do know that the meat beyond your supermarket shelves have got there from a long journey of suffering and pain, just to become food for you. But you CHOOSE to ignore it. Why? because you are not prepared to give up meat. You are not willing to give up something you ‘like’, meaning it’s a selfish act.

    Most people, when we’re confronted with something that suggests that our current practices are not the best ones, it’s uncomfortable. We can either consider that our choices may not have been the best ones, which is extremely disturbing, or we can reject that premise without truly considering it, so that we don’t have to feel bad about our actions. That’s the more comfortable approach. It’s easy to give up when things get tough and this cannot be any more true when it comes to embracing a new value, and transitioning our lifestyles to be consistent with them.

    People generally want to adopt beliefs that support the self-image they want to maintain and project. If animal rights and veganism doesn’t fit the preconceived self-image for whatever reason, then rational ignorance and rational irrationality about animal rights and veganism are likely to occur.

    Consider that so many of us love and coddle the family dog, or even a stranger’s dog (familiarity with the dog generally doesn’t matter) and then stick a fork in the equally sentient tortured chicken or drink the milk of the raped and slaughtered cow, who lost her calf to the veal industry. This is a classic example of an incoherence of evaluative beliefs that is wildly irrational epistemically. How do we cope with this epistemic incoherence that we’d normally scoff at? We cope with it via rational ignorance (“Stop, I don’t want to know what happens to the (‘food’) animals”) and rational irrationality (“They’re bred for food.”

    We are not even meant to eat meat. We are conditioned to believe that we are ‘meant’ to eat meat. However, we just assume that we have always, but there are substantial fossil evidence that date back a few million years that prove early humans were not dentally pre-adapted to eat meat. Even at the turn of the twenty-first century, man’s body hasn’t adapted to eating meat. People act by idea rather than instinct, and for our ancestors, eating meat was a learned behaviour. We simply copied what other animals did in order to survive. That doesn’t mean we are ‘meant’ to eat it. Humans are not physically created to eat meat. If you look at carnivores and herbivores they have different biological make ups. Carnivores have an intestinal tract that is only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly whereas herbivores have an intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length so that they can take in as much of the nutrients available from vegetables. We have the same biological make up of animals that are herbivores. Meat putrefies within 4 hours after consumption and the remnants cling to the walls of the intestines for 14-21 days. If a person is suffering from constipation, the rotting meat can stay in the intestines for months or years. Furthermore, the saliva in humans is more alkaline, whereas in the case of flesh eating or preying animals, it is clearly acidic. The alkaline saliva does not act properly on meat. Carnivores have sharp front teeth for tearing, with no flat molar teeth for grinding vegetables. Like herbivores, we do not have the teeth and jaw structure to enable us to tear at raw meat. The final point I would like to make on how we as humans are not meant to eat meat is this; all omnivorous and carnivorous animals eat their meat raw. When a lion kills a herbivore for food, it tears right into the stomach area to eat the organs that are filled with blood (nutrients). While eating the stomach, liver, intestine, etc., the lion laps the blood in the process of eating the dead animal’s flesh. Even bears that are omnivores eat salmon raw. However, eating raw bloody meat disgust us as humans. This is why we must cook it and season it to buffer the taste of the flesh. So you still think it is completely natural to eat meat? Why don’t you go and live as a nomad and hunt for the animal, kill it with your bare hands and rip its raw flesh out with your teeth and drink its blood. That would be natural.

    We must also look at the esoteric meaning of why one should refrain from eating meat. Kirilian photography shows us that a force field still remains around dead or amputated flesh. You adopt that animal’s aura when you eat it’s dead flesh. The slogan, ‘You are what you eat’ certainly rings true when defining the mental aspect of eating meat. When animals are slaughtered, fear and aggression enzymes are shot into their muscle tissue. They remain in the meat until the consumer ingests the flesh and adapts the same emotions. When animals are being led to the slaughterhouse they sense where they are going and what is going to happen to them and they are absolutely terrified. Their terror disrupts the proper functioning of certain glands which start to secrete toxic substances and there is no way of eliminating that poison from the flesh of the animal; man ingests it in his meat, it enters into his own organism and naturally, it is not conducive either to good health or to long life. We need to be aware of the ‘consequences’ of eating meat in terms of behaviours (mental, emotional, physical). These invisible consequences and influences on our psyche, is far more detrimental than only on the nutritive side.

    Trust me, I have been through the journey of transitioning from a meat eater to a veggie.

    • says

      Julianne – My decision not to give up meat, it is not a selfish act. I work hard and want my rewards at the end of the day. I like meat and it is an option for me to eat it, so i did because I worked hard for that money that buys that meat.

      I have also been through the scenarios that I would gladly eat a chicken, cow etc but if someone placed dog on my plate, I would be sick. Made no impact on my decision to carry on eating meat.

      I full accept that poisons may be entering my blood stream, however draw a line that the animals emotions are being absorbed by myself as well.

      My decision is to eat meat and no amount of horror or scare stories will change that. If I ever was to stop eating meat, it would simply be because I lost a desire for the taste of it
      Natalie wrote about..My Istanbul Pictures in Black and White

    • says

      Your comments are text book propaganda of the self righteous community of vegetarians that continually fail to back up their arguments with sound scientific evidence and references all while continuing to acknowledge the environmental damage a plant only agricultural world would cause.

      The fact that there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate for the human body but there are 8 essential fatty-acids found in animal sourced proteins and fat eliminate your argument.

      Great post Natalie, always learning something new from your articles.
      Ash wrote about..A Backpacker Friendly Cruise!?

    • David Race says

      Well Julien that was a long and misinformed and biased account from someone who obviously knows nothing about meat production.

      As someone who has recently retired after 50+ years as a butcher I can assure you that no animal in its journey to the supermarket shelves has endured a long journey of suffering and pain. In the UK most livestock have a admittedly short but relatively comfortable life before being transported for slaughter. They are well fed and sheltered, something that wild animals do not always enjoy and normally transported to the slaughterhouse on the day of slaughter. If not on the day of slaughter they are rested overnight prior to it. If animals are at all stressed prior to slaughter the meat produced is rendered virtually useless or of less value. Beef becomes very dark and tough and pork will also be dark and contain blood flecks throughout. Sheep are less affected.

      Before voicing opinions from a position of ignorance based on vegetarian propaganda take a step back and look at things logically, this applies to almost all aspects of life where propaganda can cloud our judgement.

      It is pointless entering into a dialogue over this subject with those whose judgement is clouded by propaganda and misinformation, however, I have more than 50 years of experience and in all that time have witnessed very little actual cruelty and I may add I am also actively involved in nature conservation and an animal lover, not as you possibly imagine “The devil incarnate”.

  15. Chris says

    Juliamnne makes some very good points I think.
    But I have to agree with you Natalie, that it’s taking it a bit far to say that when you eat the meat, you are taking in the animals emotions.
    And I’m afraid I immediately become sceptical when the word “aura” is mentioned.
    I suppose I’m a hypocrite because I profess to love animals while still eating meat. But I do have a special fondness for goats. Petting them I mean, not eating them!
    For that reason, I really couldn’t stand there and watch some poor animal have its throat cut. Tradition or not. it’s not something I would want to be part of.

  16. Belma says

    Hi Natalie,
    I just discovered your site and have to say that, it is really informative even for me as a turkish woman. Because I always fascinated with the possibility of seeing the world through other’s eyes. There are many people from western countries where i live and since i moved here i was wondering why.. Thank you for giving me some perspective about that.

    Now I have to say about this topic. I’m not carnivorous but interesting with Kurban Bayram?, this fest always make me think about the truth. Yes, the truth. When I was a kid, my parents let me see all process at sacrifice time. They used to buy the sheep or cow at least 1 month earlier from ceremony. During this time we(kids) were acting them like our pets. Think how can be hard to watch them while your own father is cutting their throut. But actually it was no hard, it was a discovery for us. About life, death and balance between them, sacrifices we have to make or somebody has to make, blood, body, how animal we are or how nature rules and how to respect all of them. I mean it was not only about the question “where the meat comes from?”

    You know, in eastern thought there is no dark and light sides or no two sides of coin. They’re together. That’s why they have no certain rules to act. Think about the chaos of the indian traffic. Despite the visial chaos it still process. But actually we turks are not so easterner to keep goin in such a chaos , beside not a westerner to follow the codes of human too. Tradition comes from east, education comes from the west in Turkey. I’m sure a lot of turks can not be able to think like that about the Kurban Bayram?. They mostly see this period as a opportunity of purification like other acts of worship. But they can feel that(naked truth) anyway.


  17. Mehmet says

    Great article will share :)

  18. Victoria says

    interesting article – though last year, whilst living in Kusadasi, in the touristic part of Ladies Beach they sacrificed two sheep in a garden, just opposite the local polict station, so I think it is still practised widely. However more and more folk are giving money to charity, or sending money to the East, to the people genuinely considered “poor” … after all, how many people are really “poor” in the Aegean side of Turkey, yes they are in need, but not nearly as poor as those in the villages near the Syrian border, for example.

    As regards the question of cruelty, obviously animals are killed like this every day in Turkey, but what could be considered cruel is the waste – like in England when so many turkeys are killed over Christmas time – and often it is done for show, so the neighbours can see that you’ve enough money to kill a cow, so to speak. Driving through the village where all the butchers are, on the few days running up to Bayram, even in Kusadasi area it’s full of pens of sheep and goats in the week running up to Bayram, and then empty and strangely silent after the 1st day … I know it’s hypocritical, as I am a meat-eater, so your words do not fall on deaf ears, but there’s still a “but” …

    thanks for sharing

    • says

      I think there is always going to be “Buts” Victoria, however I have noticed over the last few years that more Turks are speaking out about it and yes, like you say, giving to charity. Let’s hope that with those charities though, the money ends up where it is meant to go!

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