An American Abroad

Sheep Everywhere

As Eid al-Adha approaches, sheep are everywhere in and around Sousse. Sacrificing a sheep or other animal is a symbolic acknowledgement of the story of Abraham’s willingness to kill his son Ishmael because god commanded it, and god’s last minute provision of a lamb to slaughter instead.

As I walked to work the other day, I passed through a herd of about six dozen sheep, a dozen goats, some dogs, and three shepherds who were on their way into town. (I now have to mind the sheep dung as I walk through my neighborhood.) As I was driven south to Mahdia, I saw many enterprising shepherds selling their animals by the roadside. I also saw individual sheep in the back of trucks taking their last rides.

Sheep are expensive. A decent-sized one goes for between 500 and 700 TND ($275 to $390), an enormous sum in this developing country.

Even electronics stores try to cash in on the upcoming festivities. Check out this ad circular for televisions and laptops:


As both an animal lover and a meat lover, I’m of two minds about slaughtering sheep. I feel sorry for the sheep patiently waiting by the side of the road to be purchased, brought home, and ritually slaughtered. It seems barbaric. But how hypocritical of me, a guy who likes his lamb chops as well as well as the next man. I’m used to buying them shrink-wrapped in a grocery store. At least Tunisians know what’s on the end of their forks.


  1. Mary Cole says:

    I have always said that my mind wants to be a vegetarian, but my tongue will not let me. If I had to butcher my meat, it would probably be the catalyst for my conscience to win over my taste buds.

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