SUNSET PARK — A sheep slated for slaughter on a Muslim religious holiday escaped from a halal butcher shop Tuesday afternoon and fled down Third Avenue in a brief burst of freedom before it was cornered, lassoed and returned, witnesses said.
The sheep was being kept inside Al Noor Halal Meat Market, at 149 21st Street, when it broke loose and took off down Third Avenue about 2 p.m., said a woman who works at the market.
The furry white animal, which was on deck to be sacrificed for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, bolted past a pair of Red Hook artists en route to drop off a painting for a Hurricane Sandy Benefit, the witnesses said.
"My girlfriend and I were driving down Third Avenue when we saw a [sheep] running down Third Avenue," said Red Hook artist Coke Wisdom O'Neal, who was driving with his artist girlfriend, Mira Aldridge.
"We chased the [sheep] down the street. I was afraid it would get hit by a car. It was running around in the middle of the road," O'Neal added.
The couple corralled the terrified animal into an air conditioning duct factory, Fun Air & L, where they cornered it in the backyard, Aldridge said.
"It was not vicious but it was definitely scared. It was hiding underneath the air conditioning thing," Aldridge said. "It was scary because it was so big."
O'Neal, who said his 11-year-old son Mercury Khalsa is a vegetarian who abhors animal suffering, grabbed a rope from an employee of the duct company and caught the animal.
"I lassoed it and the police came," O'Neal said, adding that he owed it to his son to try to save the animal.
O'Neal said he dialed animal rights group PETA in hopes that they could take the sheep to safety, but was told there was nothing that they could do because there were police already on the scene, he said.
A worker from Al Noor arrived a short time later, hogtied the animal and threw it into the back of a BMW to return it to the shop, O'Neal said.
Mohammed Aldeen, who has owned the butcher shop since 1993, said the sheep will be sacrificed for Eid Al-Adhha, the Muslim holiday that honors Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his sons for God. The animal will be killed on Wednesday and divided into third and shared between family, friends and charity, he said.
"She is happy, smiling, eating," said Aldeen.
O'Neal said when the butcher shop told him what they were planning to do with the sheep, he was floored.
"They're going to sacrifice it. This is awful," said O'Neal, adding that his only thoughts in lassoing the animal in the first place was, "My kid is going to kill me if I don't save this thing."