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Animal Sacrifice at Gadhimai Temple Goes On Despite Protests

animal sacrificeThe Government of Nepal and the Gadhimai Temple have been strongly criticized for failing to stop the sacrifice of tens of thousands of animals at this year’s festival, despite a legal and moral obligation to act.

Animal protection groups Humane Society International/India, People for Animals and Animal Welfare Network Nepal said temple trustees promised –as late as one hour before the slaughter began Friday 28 November to stop the killing.

N.G. Jayasimha, managing director, HSI/India, said “We are extremely disappointed with the way the temple trust and the Government of Nepal let the massacre of animals continue despite their vow. While it is of great solace that we were able to significantly reduce the number of animals killed , the week it has been very difficult as we witnessed the hacking to death of thousands of buffaloes, young goats and even pigeons . Such scenes of suffering and loss of life will stay with me and my team forever, and spur us on to do everything in our power to make this the last Gadhimai festival where innocent animal blood is spilt.”

For the past several weeks and months, HSI and its partners, together with Indian authorities, successfully worked within a legal framework to reduce the number of animals brought to the temple for sacrifice. Official body counts by the meat contractors on the grounds show that an estimated 4,000 buffalo and innumerable goats and pigeons were killed; however, approximately 350,000 animals were killed at the festival in 2009, so this year’s significant reduction was a major accomplishment for HSI, AWNN and others.

The campaigners, accompanied by Gauri Maulekhi, trustee, People for Animals respectively, met with the Prime Minister and President of Nepal in the week prior to the festival at the behest of Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, founder of PFA. Despite a promise to fully cooperate with the order by the Supreme Court of India to stop illegal animal transports across the border, HSI and AWNN say Nepalese border officials failed to implement the ruling, with border officers openly flouting the order

Manoj Gautam, president of AWNN, said, “The whole event has been a disaster for the organizers. Several laws, including the Supreme Court order, have been violated, as authorities failed to implement even basic measures for the protection of animal and public health.

In an 11th hour push to save the sacrificial animals, Swami Agnivesh, former legislative assembly member and renowned Hindu social activist, visited the Gadhimai temple to negotiate with the temple trustees. He fasted for 24 hours to protest against the killing, but his pleas for compassion were ignored.

Temple authorities advertised the “biggest and most spectacular” Gadhimai festival ever, but many thousand fewer animals reached the festival site than anticipated. The sacrifice is an extremely lucrative enterprise for the temple. Not only do devotees pay the temple for their animals to be sacrificed, but the temple then sells the carcasses for 1600 rupees each to meat contractors, profiting twice from each animal’s death.

This year, however, the meat company cancelled the contract due to the low animal numbers, so the buffalo carcasses have been left rotting in the festival arena and the temple has been unable to profit.

Gauri Maulekhi commended the SSB, saying, “The drop in numbers was significant thanks to the SSB. I commend their efforts. Although there were slips but upon flagging the issues, the DIG himself came down to supervise the patrolling.”

HSI, PFA and AWNN are now campaigning for this to be the last year of animal sacrifice at the Gadhimai festival. As Nepal is writing its constitution, the groups are seeking inclusion of animal protection language to protect animals in future.


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