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November 20, 2009

Mass Animal Sacrifice Planned in Nepal

Humane Society International

  • Buffalo like these will die an agonizing death. © ogimogi/flickr

Animal sacrifice is foreign to many in today’s day and age, but it still happens. One of the worst scenes of such slaughter in the world is the Gadhimai Jatra festival, held in the Bara district in the south of Nepal. Every five years, hundreds of thousands of animals are massacred in the name of a Hindu deity. During the last event, more than 200,000 animals were killed in just two days. This year, organizers are calling for nearly a half million animals to be slaughtered November 24 and 25.

The details of these so-called “festivities” are particularly horrific. There is no slaughterhouse or system in place for humane killing; instead, the animals are kept trapped in enclosures. The “panchhbali,” or five offerings, involves slicing the throats of five kinds of animals (buffalo, goats, pigs, roosters and rats) with a knife. This is not a quick death, but slow and agonizing for the victims. Buffalo, due to their size, suffer the most. Men swinging swords, often drunk, enter the corral and begin to hack away at the huge beasts. They target the hind legs first to bring the animals down and then proceed with a slow chopping at the neck, often requiring tens of cuts to actually kill the animal. The cruelty is unspeakable and the pain these creatures endure is unfathomable.

In fact, more Indians attend this festival than do Nepalese; Bara is just over the border from India, where sacrificial slaughter has been banned in some states. Additionally, the only real beneficiaries of the event are the local business people, who pressure the villagers to offer excessive numbers of farm animals for the sacrifice. Reportedly, the businessmen can earn as much as $2 million from the sale of the carcasses and hides, while the community gains nothing. Superstition and pressure from organizers impede local action, though many people view the carnage as barbaric.

This horrendous cruelty somehow existed without much publicity until this year. Animal advocates and religious leaders both within Nepal and around the world have displayed outrage and disgust and are working together to pressure on the Nepalese government to put a stop to the mass animal sacrifice. HSI is joining in this effort by working with two of our local partners in Nepal, Kathmandu Animal Treatment Center and Animal Nepal and asking our supporters to write to Nepalese leaders to voice their concern.

Animal Nepal is organizing events in the capital ahead of the event and filing a case at the Supreme Court, as well as planning a symbolic ritual blessing in the hope that compassion will reign. HSI intends to keep the pressure on Nepalese leaders and help spread awareness of the horror of the event. Even “tradition” is no excuse for cruelty in a civilized society. As Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying, “The greatness of a society and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.”

Editor's Note: After the festival, reports came in that an estimated 16,000 water buffalo and 50,000 goats had been killed, along with an unknown number of sheep, pigs, rats, pigeons, and chickens. Even before the event, some animals died from lack of food and water. One participant in the slaughter was quoted as saying, "The more animals I kill, the more satisfied I feel. I am helping an ancient tradition to survive." A priest apparently commented, "The goddess needs blood. Then that person can make his wishes come true."  Animal advocates took photographs to show the world what really happened (warning: some are graphic). We must work to ensure that this needless cruelty never happens again.