VIENNA — An Austrian court has found 12 men guilty of cruelty to animals for causing 79 sheep unnecessary suffering while slaughtering them.

The Muslim ritual slaughter of livestock by cutting their throats and letting them bleed to death is widespread and supporters argue that it isn’t cruel if done properly.

But prosecutors in the southern city of Graz argued that the men, most of them Turks or of Turkish origins, used knives that weren’t sharp and didn’t stun or sedate the animals.

Judge Helmut Wlasak spoke Thursday of a “bloodbath,” saying the men lacked the skills for proper ritual slaughter. He fined the organizer 1,260 euros ($1,500) and sentenced him to a suspended nine-month jail term.

Six other accused who didn’t show up will be tried later.

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