The pair, Romanian travellers living in a camp in Val Bisagno, Genoa, were reported to the police in 2014 after publicly slaughtering a young goat by cutting its throat and then hanging it upside down, while it was still conscious, La Stampa reported.
The animal was killed during the Islamic celebration of Eid al-Adha, an annual celebration during which an animal is sacrificed to commemorate the prophet Abraham, who according to scripture was asked to murder his own son, Isaac, at God's command. But when he was about to do so, an angel appeared and told him to stop. It was simply a test of Abraham's faith.
The religious act was reported to police by a local animal rights association, which described the public scene as 'bloodcurdling' as the unstunned animal was forced to go through the ordeal while conscious.
The two men were then convicted of animal cruelty and fined €4,600.
But their sentence was overturned by an appeals court in Genoa last week as the act was carried out as part of a religious festival.
In overturning the conviction, judge Mauro Amisano wrote that animal cruelty charges “presume the lack of any valid motive which renders the cruelty abject and futile.”
Amisano added that the sacrifice had a valid motive as it was part of a religious festival and had been carried out according to longstanding tradition.
“As part of a religious practice, one can assume the men did not expose the animal to any additional suffering,” he added.
“It cannot be considered illegal because it is a practice which is permitted by the freedom of religious expression.”
In the Muslim faith, animals that are to be slaughtered for consumption must be killed in accordance with halal practices, which involves cutting the animal's throat while saying a prayer to Allah – the Bismillah. The animal is then hung up so its blood can drain.
Usually the process is carried out on a stunned animal – but during religious festivals, animals are often slaughtered while still conscious.