LONDON -- Neighbors of an Iranian diplomat said they were outraged when a sheep was taken from his home, slaughtered in the street of a wealthy London suburb and and then roasted in his backyard.
A group of men dragged the sheep from the home of Seyed Abolghassen Mokhtari, first secretary of the Iranian Embassy, into the street Saturday morning, cut its throat with a ceremonial sword and took it to the backyard where they roasted it, sending the smell of burning meat drifting over the area.
'I've seen this happen abroad, but it's not something you expect to happen at 9 a.m. in a London suburb,' neighbor Tony Line said Sunday.
'It was amazing,' he said. 'About four or five Iranians pulled a sheep out of a house and then heaved it over the gutter. Two of them held it down while another man poured water over its head. Then a fourth man wearing a white butcher's coat slit its throat.'
The sacrifice was thought to be connected with the religious ceremony 'Eid Al Fita' -- the Feast of Slaughter -- at the end of the Moslem festival of Ramadan.
'Police were called by residents who witnessed the incident. Officers did speak to a resident but he claimed diplomatic immunity so there will be no further action,' said a spokesman for Scotland Yard.
'We're absolutely horrified,' said Mike Smithson of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 'There's little doubt that this animal would have suffered considerable pain during the minutes it was slowly bleeding to death in the street.'
He said most animals killed for food are 'pre-stunned' so the killing is 'humane.' In this case, however, he said there was just 'no excuse.'
If diplomatic immunity had not arisen, the Iranians would have been charged under the Cruelty to Animals Act and possibly with causing a breach of the peace, police said.
The diplomatic immunity clause of the 1961 Vienna Convention has come under increasing attack in Britain, especially since the Libyan Embassy siege in April when the killer of a British policewoman was allowed to leave the country without prosecution.