New Delhi—In a move that will spare the lives of millions of animals over coming years, animal sacrifice has been cancelled indefinitely at Nepal’s Gadhimai festival, the world’s biggest animal sacrifice event held every five years for around 265 years. The decision announced by the Gadhimai Temple Trust follows rigorous negotiations and campaigning by Animal Welfare Network Nepal and Humane Society International/India. Read the declaration.
Gauri Maulekhi, HSI/India consultant & Trustee, People for Animals, who petitioned India’s Supreme Court against the movement of animals from India to the Gadhimai festival, said, “This is a tremendous victory for compassion that will save the lives of countless animals. HSI/India was heartbroken to witness the bloodshed at Gadhimai, and we’ve worked hard to help secure this ban on future sacrifice. We commend the temple committee but acknowledge that a huge task lies ahead of us in educating the public so that they are fully aware. HSI/India & People for Animals will now spend the next three and a half years until the next Gadhimai educating devotees in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal on the Temple Trusts’ decision not to sacrifice animals. Animal sacrifice is a highly regressive practice and no nation in the modern world should entertain it.”
Manoj Gautam, founding member of AWNN and campaigner against the Gadhimai festival, said, “We applaud the temple committee’s decision to end this mass slaughter of innocent animals and hope that they will continue to support us in our future endeavors for protecting animals in the country. AWNN’s progressive move to work directly with the temple committee, with Humane Society International/India’s support has been the key that changed the whole face of the campaign and is the reason for the achievement we have now.”
In 2014, HSI/India and AWNN’s global campaign against the Gadhimai animal massacre captured the public imagination when thousands of national and international supporters expressed their ire and displeasure against the ruthless killing. Protests were held worldwide.
With the Supreme Court of India’s intervention to prohibit the movement of animals from India to Nepal, AWNN and HSI/India saw a reduction of up to 70 percent in the number of animals sacrificed from 2009. The Supreme Court’s order resulted in more than 100 arrests of those breaching the order, and more than 2,500 animals saved. Earlier this month the Supreme Court of India issued directions to states to set up mechanisms to prevent animals from being taken to Gadhimai in future and create awareness against animal sacrifice.
Earlier this year, following the global outrage stemming from the Gadhimai massacre, the temple committee also decided not to sacrifice any animals during the harvest festival (Sankranti). Instead, the temple officials have been confiscating the animals and caring for them until rescuers can rehome them.
Mr Ram Chandra Shah, Chairman of the Gadhimai Temple Trust, issued a statement on the decision to stop holding animal sacrifices during the Gadhimai festival, which can be found here.
- It is estimated that more than 500,000 buffalo, goats, chickens and other animals were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009, but in 2014 the numbers had reduced by 70 percent.
- The origins of Gadhimai date back around 265 years ago, when the founder of the Gadhimai Temple, Bhagwan Chowdhary, had a dream that the goddess Gadhimai wanted blood in return for freeing him from prison, protecting him from evil and promising prosperity and power. The goddess asked for a human sacrifice, but Chowdhary successfully offered an animal instead, and this been repeated every five years since.
- Among others, President Emeritus of the World Council of Arya Samaj and noted social activist Swami Agnivesh were at the forefront of urging Indian devotees to boycott the mass slaughter by holding a hunger strike at the heart of the temple.
- B. D. Sharma, director general of SSB, was awarded with the ‘Leadership in Animal Welfare’ award for his exemplary contribution in curbing the illegal transport of animals during Gadhimai.
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