Many people (especially those with a socialist / progressive mindset) start posting articles during the time of Eid ul Adha on how cruel this Eid is, the bloodbath that is animal sacrifice and why we should "reconsider animal sacrifice" or give "blankets to Syria", and so on. Here is my humble take on it.
1. Millions of animals are slaughtered just for Eid ul Adha. This is a barbaric practice.
Simple facts should be presented here. According to US Dept. of Agriculture, 45 million turkeys are killed in US alone on Thanksgiving every year. In the US in 2010, 10.2 billion animals were raised to be slaughtered as food (202 million of these were cows or pigs - mammals). So Eid is hardly the leader in numbers of animals slaughtered that many are making it out to be.
There's 1 billion Muslims. If you say 50% of these can afford to sacrifice an animal (an unusually high estimate, really!), and there's 4 people to a family, that's still only 125 million animals killed for Eid (less than number of mammals slaughtered just in US /year) . And also take into account that it's 7 shares per cow, and the number of animals slaughtered just for Eid pales in comparison to just the regular slaughter of turkeys in US alone for Thanksgiving. So we can safely say:
More turkeys are slaughtered in US for Thanksgiving than animals in the whole of the Muslim world for Eid.
2. The slaughter of Eid animals happen in a cruel manner. They are transported in highly constrained spaces and killed in an inhumane manner.
All developed countries have slaughter houses where slaughter of animals happen in a humane fashion, following the law, and the process is monitored by the government and all meat is inspected by the appropriate authority. The same is true of all of the Gulf Arab countries, Malaysia, Turkey etc. Muslims living in the West, as well as these countries, therefore slaughter animals in a humane and proper method.
This leaves us poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt etc. The fact that inhumane slaughter happens here is not being denied, but it is not an Eid or Muslim specific problem, it is a social economic problem. And numbers wise, it is (far) less than the number of animals slaughtered properly in the developed world.
It should also be remembered, many of the sheep and lamb to be slaughtered (even in poor Muslim countries) comes from New Zealand where they have been raised following the law.
3. It is better to give charity to Syria or feed the poor than to sacrifice an animal meaninglessly.
You can do whatever acts of charity you wish. Charity is good for you and it is good for your wealth and health. However, no charity can take the place of a religiously mandated act of ritual that is part of this Eid. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) always performed an animal sacrifice on Eid, and it is accepted by most Islamic scholars as sunnah muakkadah (a strongly recommended sunnah). Hanifis consider it wajib (almost obligatory).
Also, consider this. The animal sacrifice is not a mere “tradition” or "ritual", but it is a commandment from Allah.
“Whoever can afford to offer a sacrifice but does not do so, let him not approach our place or prayer.” [hadith in Musnad Ahmad and Ibn Majah.]
“Turn in prayer to your Lord and sacrifice to Him alone.” [Surah al-Kausar; 108:2]
No one is denying the need for charity, but this is one day many poor folks look forward to as they know they can eat meat on this day.
4. I disagree with Big Farming practices and think animal husbandry and livestock is not an ecologically sustainable practice.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not eat meat often, but he was not a vegetarian. His favourite meat was the shank of a lamb. Eating meat is part of the sunnah, just as eating in moderation, not eating to your fill, and eating meat sparingly, etc.
A vegetarian can be a Muslim, as it is not fard (obligatory) to eat meat. But it cannot be denied that the Prophet (peace be upon him) ate meat. What is needed is for people to work together to reform Big Farm practices and find a sustainable, economically viable and morally ethical alternative farming practices - and this again is a social problem that has nothing to do with Islam or Eid.