Patna — Humane Society International teams in India and Nepal are preparing to head for the Gadhimai festival, the largest mass animal sacrifice event in the world, in an effort to save as many animals as possible from being ritually beheaded. The bloodbath takes place in the Bara district of Nepal every five years, and historically hundreds of thousands of buffalo, goats, pigeons and other animals have been killed. The upcoming Gadhimai will see the mass ritual slaughter take place on December 3rd and 4th.
HSI teams will be deployed at the Indo-Nepal border later this month to assist border officials who will be confiscating animals being brought across from India to be sacrificed, which is against the law. In 2014 the Supreme Court of India passed an order directing the Government of India to prevent these illegal transports, and asking animal protection groups such as Humane Society International/India and others to devise an action plan to ensure the court order is implemented.
Download photos from Gadhimai 2014 here: https://newsroom.humanesociety.org/fetcher/index.php?searchMerlin=1&searchBrightcove=1&submitted=1&mw=d&q=Gadhimai0319
Efforts to end the animal sacrifice received a major boost in 2015 when the Gadhimai Temple Trust (officially called the Gadhimai Temple Operation and Development Committee) announced a ban on animal sacrifice during the festival. However, despite the Temple priest confirming the ban in a video message, and promoting alternative offerings, the Temple Trust has more recently remained silent on its previous promise of a bloodless Gadhimai. Despite this, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued a full order in September 2019 in favour of ending live animal sacrifice at Gadhimai and elsewhere in the country, and this was followed in November by appeals against animal sacrifice issued by Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology.
Alokparna Sengupta, managing director HSI/India, said, “As compassionate citizens it is our duty to speak up for the hundreds of thousands of innocent animals who are condemned to an utterly unjustified beheading at Gadhimai. We want to leave devotees in no doubt whatsoever that the Gadhimai Temple has declared there should be no animal sacrifice, and that fruit and flowers should be offered to the goddess instead of the lives of buffalo, goats and pigeons. We are battling centuries of belief, so we know this won’t be an easy battle to win. But we will do everything we can to stop this unnecessary bloodshed.”
Over the past year leading up to the 2019 Gadhimai, HSI/India and HSI/Nepal have been advancing a huge public awareness raising campaign to ensure that the estimated 5 million devotees attending the festival will hear the message not to bring animals but instead to bring flowers and sweets to offer to the goddess. HSI/India also joined with Bihar’s Animal Husbandry Department, People for Animals and local organization Jag Jagran Sansthan, to perform a series of colourful street theatre plays promoting the bloodless Gadhimai message in remote and largely illiterate communities, in addition to radio advertisements and billboards in multiple languages and dialects.
In Kathmandu, multi-faith groups, HSI/Nepal and other animal welfare groups including our partners The Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal, have worked together to urge the government to ban religious animal sacrifice across all religious, cultural, caste, ethnic and linguistic groups in Nepal. HSI is also asking members of the public to send an urgent plea to the Prime Minister of Nepal to intervene to stop the sacrifice.
Tanuja Basnet, director of Humane Society International/Nepal, said: “The Gadhimai festival is an unholy bloodbath that is not part of Hinduism and has no place whatsoever in any religion. Here in Nepal, animal welfare groups, temple priests and religious groups are opposing the killing and promoting compassion to animals instead, urging all faiths to support alternative offerings at festivals instead of blood sacrifice. Together we must strive to make a kinder world for all animals in Nepal.”
- The Gadhimai festival involves a month-long celebration or “mela”, culminating in the ritual slaughter of tens of thousands of animals. At its height in 2009, around 500,000 buffalo, goats, pigeons and other animals were slaughtered, but thanks to tireless efforts by Humane Society International/India and others including Animal Welfare Network Nepal, and People for Animals, the gruesome event was considerably reduced in 2014 to around 30,000 animals.
- Water buffalo, goats, chickens, pigs, ducks and rats are decapitated with blunt metal swords in an alcohol-fuelled killing frenzy.
- The origins of Gadhimai date back around 265 years, 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 has been repeated every five years since.
HSI/India representatives are available for interview, and will be producing photo and video reports of their patrol at the festival site in Nepal.
- HSI/India: Alokparna Sengupta firstname.lastname@example.org; Shambhavi Tiwari (0)8879834125; email@example.com;
- HSI/UK: Wendy Higgins +44 (0)7989 972 423; firstname.lastname@example.org
The animal movements from India are in violation of the Export-Import Policy of India and the Foreign Trade Act (Development and Regulation) Act 1992 which categorically places live cattle and buffalo in the restricted export category, requiring a license to legally export them. This rule is being openly flouted as the majority of animals are transported illegally across the border without an export license.