Livestock farming and meat consumption, especially red meat, both have a severe impact on the Earth’s environment and sustainability, causing forest destruction, wildlife extinctions, excessive greenhouse gas emissions, and global climate change. Currently, as a protein source for the world’s rapidly expanding middle class populations, increased meat consumption will likely put excessive strain on Earth’s well-being, exceeding planetary boundaries of safety. Although God Almighty provided livestock for human benefit, today considerations of protecting the higher objectives (maqasid) of Islamic shariah, the fiqh principle (qawa’id) of reducing harm, and also promoting social equity and physical health, require Muslims to reduce meat consumption and live more simply, like the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions, who were ‘semivegetarians’.
The review of animal sacrifice in Islam, particularly during the annual Eid ul-‘adha celebration, confirms that Islam strongly promotes these practices. However, the alternative to sacrificing (fasting for Tamattu’ and Qiran pilgrims) should be availed upon wherever possible, not just during Eid ul-‘adha. Mujtahids should investigate in which situations, such as following large-scale human calamities or cases of severe environmental harm, Islam may permit the giving of sadaqah or other aid instead of the traditional sacrifice.