Nepal is set to host one of the world's largest religious slaughter of animals after the Eid-ul-Azha festival for the Muslims. Gadhimai festival, celebrated once every five years, will welcome hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the Bara district. The festival, which commenced this week, is observed for a month. The animal sacrifices are scheduled for next week, on November 28 and November 29.
Despite a rising chorus of voices against the festival's treatment of animals, the organising committee has decided to go ahead as planned.
Killing of turkeys in US has no link with killing of animals in #Gadhimai. All killing is bad, some r worse eg Gadhimai. Its cruel. stop it
— Suman Khadka (@SumanKhadka14) November 15, 2014
— Lionheart (@I_am_a_Leo) November 12, 2014
— jose (@jjose1202) November 12, 2014
At the festival, participates sacrifice nearly 500,000 animals over the course of two days. With approximately 70 percent of the animals coming from India, India’s Supreme Court has issued a notice to stop the illegal transport of animals into Nepal.
Joanna Lumley, who advocates for Gurkhas‘ civil rights, urged officials to ban the animal sacrifices at the Gadhimai festival. Lumley is the ambassador of the British organisation Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), which promotes animal welfare. Animal Welfare Network Nepal, another similar organisation, and CIWF are currently sponsoring a joint online petition against the festival.
Other online petitions have also emerged in opposition to the treatment of animals at the Gadhimai festival. Many campaigning to stop the sacrifices at the event have been active on social media, pressuring the authorities to crack down on the violence against animals.
Activists against the festival's animal practices aren't the only voices online, however. Supporters point to how the festival brings families together, often reuniting relatives who live on opposite sides of Nepal's borders. The celebrations, these people argue, help strengthen the country's communal bonds. The priest of the Gadhimai temple, for instance, is a Tharu, whereas most devotees from the bottom of Nepal's hierarchical caste-segregated Madhesi society.
Others point out that the festival's slaughter of animals pales in comparison to the cattle industry in a country like the United States, where 9.1 billion animals were killed for food last year, averaging almost 25 million animals every day.
— Nepali Journalists (@jhyal) November 14, 2014
Demonizing Hinduism n ridicule of our culture by westerners n west-influenced progressive will radicalize even the moderate Hindus #Gadhimai
— Prem Dhakal (@premdhakal) November 17, 2014
With people still divided about the festival, activists and participants alike can only hope to raise awareness, recruiting more people to their causes.
Rather than seek international pressure, some of the festival's opponents believe local awareness could be a more reliable means of curbing the animal abuses at Gadhimai.
For instance, S.S. Pokharel, a medical student, writes:
— S.S.Pokharel (@pokhu) November 17, 2014