Muslim leader steps up to help slaughter-bound cow

A new twist in the case of the slaughter-bound cow who escaped briefly last weekend in Upper Darby only to get rounded up again and become the focus of an animal rescue crusade.

The Inquirer's Bonnie Cook and Mari Schaefer report today that the director of a council on Muslim-American relations says he is working toward a solution to Cowgate.

Moein Khawaja, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said this afternoon he had contacted the owner of the butcher shop, where the cow is currently awaiting slaughter. The owner is away, visiting Bangladesh.

Khawaja said he has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make an exception to a regulation banning the sale of a live animal by a slaughter market.

"He had always had the intent to spare this cow," Khawaja said of the owner, Sultan Bhuiyan, of Upper Darby. "But he was very concerned about the Department of Agriculture regulations."

He added, "We're all rooting for the cow. But this isn't Disney."

Khawaja called the Inquirer this morning and said he was troubled by the plight of the cow.

The white bovine had escaped from the Madina Live Poultry market on Fourth Street on Saturday night and had run wild through the streets before being corralled by police.

It was returned to the butcher shop, which caters to Muslim clients by butchering meats and poultry in a manner consistent with their religion. It was due to be made into steak and hamburger.

But animal activist Marianne Bessey, a Philadelphia lawyer, took up its cause. She went to the shop ready to pay $800 for the cow and transport the animal to a sanctuary in upstate New York. She even had a trailer ready to carry the cow northward, but was told Thursday the shop could not sell live animals.

As of Thursday, the fate of the cow was uncertain. The shop was closed because of all the press attention.

But this morning, as the market reopened for business, Khawaja said he thought an arrangement could be worked out to save the cow's life and also save face for the shop's operator.

He added, "We usually represent Islamic people who are discriminated against. Today. I am representing a cow."