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How Many Animals Will Die in This Year’s Gadhimai Festival in Nepal?

Butchers ready to sacrifice water buffaloes at the Gadhimai festival in Nepal (C) Diwakar Bhandari

Butchers ready to sacrifice water buffaloes at the Gadhimai festival in Nepal (C) Diwakar Bhandari, used with permission.

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.

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.

Animal rights activists of Animal Equality protested at Brandenburg Gate against the world's biggest animal sacrifice in Gadhimai in Nepal, with blood on the hands and signs with sacrificed animals. Image by Florian Boillot . Copyright Demotix (28/10/2014)

Animal rights activists of Animal Equality protested at Brandenburg Gate against the world's biggest animal sacrifice in Gadhimai in Nepal, with blood on the hands and signs with sacrificed animals. Image by Florian Boillot. Copyright Demotix (28/10/2014)

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.

Mass slaughter of animals dedicating the Hindu goddess of power, Gadhimai. Image by Koji. Copyright Demotix (23/11/2009)

Mass slaughter of animals dedicating the Hindu goddess of power. Gadhimai, Nepal. Image by Koji. November 23, 2009. Copyright Demotix.

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.

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:

Gadhimai temple in Nepal. Image by  Diwakar Bhandari, used with permission.

Gadhimai temple in Nepal. Image by Diwakar Bhandari, used with permission.

  • vonrock

    Their muslims who’s going to stop them ?

    • craigbhill

      Certainly not the braindead like you. They’re Hindu, Muslims’ enemies. Your ignorance is vast.

      • vonrock

        So what is a ” Festival of Muslims” brain alive ?

  • Dianne

    I hope this community will be interested in this documentary-in-the making regarding Manoj
    Gautam, a young Nepalese animal rights activist. A film crew will be at this year’s Festival,
    documenting his work (along with others) to stop this age-long practice. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gabrieldiamond/all-living-things-manoj-gautam-and-jane-goodall-in
    There are Nepalese animal activists who are trying to persuade those who participate through thought-provoking, peaceful, respectful measures. There is a coalition of citizens, politicians and religious leaders who are working toward an end to this 200+ year tradition. For those who wish to increase awareness, please check this link:

  • Martin Baillie

    The Gadhimai (mela) festival.

    The history of this bloodthirsty and gory spectacle originated when ‘Bhagwan Chaudhary’ a feudal landlord imprisoned in Makwanpur fort prison Nepal during the 18th century when he dreamed that all his problems would be solved if he made a blood sacrifice to Gadhimai (one of the many ‘avatars’ of the deity Kali aka Kalika). Immediately upon his release from prison he took counsel with a local village healer whose descendant ‘Dukha Kachadiya’ had started the ritual the day before with drops of his own blood from five parts of his body. Apparently, a light then ‘appeared’ in an earthenware jar and from this the sick bloodletting sacrifice ritual began.

    The animals are not slaughtered to be eaten, the animals are slaughtered as offerings to appease the goddess ‘Gadhimai’ with her ‘belief’ desire for blood-spilling; in return it is believed that she will grant her devotees health, wealth and prosperity.

    The ‘Gadhimai festival’ is based on nothing other than the combination of a no less than average meaningless dream and an optical light delusion to ‘supposedly’ one of the number of avatars of the mythical divine ‘Kali’ that can’t be located within any dated Vedic (Hindu religious) scripts.

    Footnote:

    If the flesh or any other parts of the sacrificed animal is made available for human use – then
    the point of sacrificing animals as offerings to believed divine beings becomes futile and worthless towards their belief concepts.

    • Baduum Tssh

      Nice story, can you cite a reference for it?

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