RALEIGH, N.C. — A plan by Muslims to slaughter 100 lambs on a farm this weekend as part of a religious rite has come under scrutiny from state agricultural officials, who expect to videotape what they consider an unlicensed slaughterhouse.
The arrangement to allow the slaughter to proceed is the result of negotiations involving the state, the Muslims and father-son farmers Kenneth and Eddie Rowe, who have leased their farm in Princeton for use during Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice.
The three-day holiday honors Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son because of his obedience and devotion to God. It also marks the end of the haj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to the Saudi city of Mecca.
The state is concerned because the Rowes are not licensed to run a slaughterhouse. They have raised the lambs on their farm 35 miles southeast of Raleigh and will lease it for the weekend to Muslims who want to slaughter a lamb under the rules of halal, the Islamic equivalent of Jewish kosher.
For meat to be deemed halal, an animal must be killed with a sharp knife across the throat with both carotid arteries cut at once. That allows the animal to bleed quickly and die quietly.
While there are three licensed facilities in North Carolina that specialize in halal slaughter, some Muslims prefer to conduct the slaughter themselves.
A lawyer for the farmers, Glenn Barfield, said he did not believe the Rowes were violating any laws and compared the slaughter to hog killings.
"In eastern North Carolina, we have a long tradition of doing the same thing," Barfield said. "We just don't practice [Islam]."
Agriculture Department spokesman Brian Long said the department's position was that the Rowes' farm must be licensed.
"It's not a matter of why the animals are being slaughtered; it's a matter of who's providing the slaughter service and the fact that he doesn't have a licensed facility," Long said.
The Rowes have allowed the slaughter for several years.
When the Agriculture Department learned of the practice last year, officials told Eddie Rowe he had to stop.
To get around that problem, the men have leased the farm to Muslims who want to participate, Barfield said.
The lawyer added that the Rowes also are looking into getting licensed as a custom slaughterhouse, which would allow them to run a facility where people bring their own livestock to be slaughtered.
Meanwhile, agriculture officials will be watching the event closely. "We will be there and see what's going on," Long said. "They're not licensed -- that's the bottom line here."