Uncontrolled sheep slaughtering threatens Idlib’s livestock

A flock of sheep in Idlib countryside (Enab Baladi/Huda al-Kulaib)

A flock of sheep in Idlib countryside (Enab Baladi/Huda al-Kulaib)


Enab Baladi – Anas al-Khouli

The 38-year-old Ahmed Zuhdi visits on a weekly basis the villages near the city of Idlib in northern Syria with the aim of buying two kilograms of female sheep meat due to the lower selling prices compared to male sheep.

Zuhdi told Enab Baladi that the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) operating in Idlib and parts of the Aleppo countryside prevented the slaughter of female sheep in Idlib, but the butchers in some villages did not abide by the ban, due to the weak control compared to Idlib city.

This causes the people to buy the meat of female sheep due to its low price, which reaches 80 Turkish liras per kilo, amid their inability to buy the meat of male sheep, whose price per kilo is approximately 130 Turkish liras.

According to Zuhdi, some people buy a quantity of meat that is sufficient for them for several days, especially with the availability of electricity and the presence of refrigerators that enable them to preserve meat and prepare foods from it for several days a month in light of the high cost of living these days.

Hiba Othman, 25, a housewife residing in the city of Idlib, told Enab Baladi that the low price of female sheep’s meat provides an acceptable option for housewives and enables low-income families to buy a kilo of this meat and divide it into several types of foods. But by relying on male sheep, families can only buy meat to feed their children for one or two days a month.

Ali Omair, 51, a displaced from Deir Ezzor who works as a butcher in the city of Idlib, told Enab Baladi that the ban on the slaughter of female sheep came to “preserve livestock,” considering that the decision is logical.

But on the other hand, it led to an increase in the prices of sheep meat, which weakened the demand for it in the city for two reasons, the first is the high price, and the second is the resort of a number of people to neighboring villages to buy the meat of female sheep at low prices in light of the lack of supervision there.

Omair pointed out that it is not possible to import sheep from Turkey due to the Turkish people’s dependence on the meat of Pellagonia sheep for nutrition, considering that “this meat is undesirable in our society, which is accustomed to eating mutton.”

To solve the problem, he suggested importing sheep from the eastern regions of Syria, which are “rich in livestock.”

Multiple reasons for slaughtering female sheep

The scarcity of pastures and the high prices of fodder and medicines needed to care for ewes are among the main reasons why farmers and sheep herders have been forced to sell young and female livestock in order to buy fodder to feed the rest of the herd.

The 61-year-old IDP Mousa Barakat, who works as a livestock breeder, told Enab Baladi that he was forced to sell young female sheep in Idlib countryside, despite the long-term losses that this would entail for the farmer or the breeder.

Barakat believes that the slaughter of young female sheep is a depletion of livestock in northern Syria, but livestock breeders have no other choice due to the scarcity of pastures and their inability to feed the herd with the high feed prices and veterinary treatment.

Banning the slaughter of female sheep, although it is necessary for the region, has increased the losses of farmers and sheep herders, who are now forced to sell a larger number of female sheep to secure fodder after the low price of females by the decision to prevent their slaughter and the shepherds falling victim to the exploitation of merchants, he added.

Allowed but with conditions

The depletion of livestock in the northern region of Syria and the rise in prices to imaginary numbers in the future may be the result of the indiscriminate slaughter of young female sheep in northern Syria, veterinarians say.

Idlib-based veterinarian Bilal Talib told Enab Baladi that the decision to prevent the random slaughter and compel butchers to follow the decisions issued by the responsible authorities was appropriate, albeit relatively late, in order to preserve the livestock wealth in the area and not to deplete it, and to ensure consumer safety.

Dr. Hassan Mohammed, an owner of a veterinary pharmacy in Idlib city, told Enab Baladi that the supervision by the catering and local councils on the indiscriminate slaughter of sheep outside the city of Idlib is less and weaker than the city.

“So it is natural that there are violations outside the city, which makes the people resort to there to buy low-priced ewes,” he added.

The veterinarian added that the slaughter of female sheep is not completely prohibited, and it can be done in cases such as the inability of females to bear lambs and old age and other cases that are subject to the discretion of the veterinarian.

He explained that females are slaughtered under the supervision of the veterinarian in the slaughterhouse, according to a control report that regulates the case, and the butcher is given a copy of it so as not to be fined by the control committees.

To “preserve livestock”

Mohammed al-Sulaiman, Director of Trade and Supply, told Enab Baladi that the Salvation government prohibited the slaughter of female livestock without referring to the municipal slaughterhouse located in large cities and towns, and veterinarians were assigned to all villages and towns to examine any economically unfeasible “Awassi” female sheep and give written consent to slaughter them.

Al-Sulaiman added that the supply control teams followed up the butcher shops and warned them several times to stop slaughtering female livestock, and later the supply control worked to penalize violators of the decision as a deterrent to them because of the threat to livestock in the region.

On the reasons for the rise in meat prices, al-Sulaiman assured that any commodity, including meat, is subject to supply and demand, and the price of meat can vary from one region to another because the demand for it varies, and any butcher owner is obliged to announce the type and price to avoid consumer injustice.

Oversight committees are deployed in the markets and butchers to ensure compliance with these instructions and penalties on violators that may reach the point of closing shops and preventing violators from practicing the profession permanently.


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