Tens of thousands of buffalo, goats and chickens are beheaded every five years

Humane Society International / Nepal

A buffalo is sacrificed during the 2014 Gadhimai Festival in Bara, Nepal (Kuni Takahashi/AP Images for Humane Society International)

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.


Media contacts:

HSI/India representatives are available for interview, and will be producing photo and video reports of their patrol at the festival site in Nepal.


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.

Humane Society International/India joins with Lucknow Municipal Corporation to sterilize and vaccinate street dogs there

Humane Society International / India


LUCKNOW—Humane Society International/India have entered into a memorandum of understanding with Lucknow Municipal Corporation for an animal birth control project. The goal is to sterilize and vaccinate at least 15,000 dogs in Lucknow within a year. The program was formally launched today by Honorable Urban Development Minister Mr. Ashutosh Tandon in the presence of Honorable Mayor Smt Sanyukta Bhatia, Counselor, Shri Ram Kumar Verma, Municipal Commissioner, Dr. Indramani Tripathi and Joint Director (Animal Welfare), Dr. Arvind Kumar Rao.

The project will be carried out at the dog sterilization center developed by the LMC at Jarhara Indira Nagar LKO. The facility can house up to 50 dogs a day. A team of trained animal handlers will humanely catch street dogs and bring them to the center for sterilization and vaccination against rabies. After treatment, the dogs will be released at the same locations where they were picked up, in accordance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

The team will track the progress of each dog and record related data using an HSI-created mobile application. The data will include a photograph, and the dog’s weight, color, breed, and spay/neuter date, capture and release dates and location.

In October 2019, HSI/India will conduct a population survey to determine the estimated density of street dogs in Lucknow.

Dr. Piyush Patel, program manager of dog management for HSI/India, says, “Managing dog populations and reducing human-dog conflicts is a need in urban India. It is laudable that the Lucknow Municipal Corporation is scientifically addressing this issue. Dr. Arvind Kumar Rao of the LMC has extended his full support to our team and has ensured that the infrastructure provided by LMC with complete logistical support is suitable to safeguard the dogs’ welfare during the project.”

HSI/India currently implements ABC projects in Dehradun, Nainital, Mussoorie (Uttarakhand), Vadodara (Gujarat) and Dindigul (Tamil Nadu).

Media Contact: Uma Biswas, +91-8758807223, ubiswas@hsi.org

Humane Society International / Global


GENEVA—A ban on international commercial trade in the Asian small-clawed otter has been agreed by an overwhelming majority by world leaders attending the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP18), being held in Geneva, Switzerland. Countries voted to list the Asian small-clawed otter on Appendix I, in addition to an earlier vote to also list the smooth-coated otter on Appendix I. Humane Society International/India and its global affiliate Humane Society International, part of one of the largest global animal protection charities in the world, welcomes the CITES uplisting as essential to the survival of these species.

Mark Simmonds, senior marine scientist at Humane Society International, said: “A wide variety of threats is adversely affecting the Asian small-clawed otter in the wild, such as habitat loss, pollution, and the fur trade, but increasingly it is persecution for the pet trade that is proving its downfall. This is the smallest and arguably the ‘cutest’ of all the otter species, and interest in them, fanned by photos and film on social media, means that a market for live pet animals has been swiftly growing in Asia. They are increasingly being seen in coffee shops in Japan and elsewhere where they are used as props to entice customers who share their experiences on social media platforms like Instagram, thus perpetuating the otter craze.

“With so much stacked against these otters, who are now classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN, we are delighted that they will now benefit from this very welcome, precautionary agreement to give them the highest protection at CITES. The Appendix I listing effectively bans international trade for commercial purposes and removes one of the key threats that they face. This isn’t the end of the story however. We urgently need other complementary conservation initiatives to truly tackle the otter’s demise, and so we hope that this new CITES listing will act as a call to action. We commend India, Nepal, the Philippines and Bangladesh for bringing both the otter proposals forward, and all the countries and conservation organizations that supported them.”  

Sumanth Bindumadhav, HSI/India’s wildlife campaign manager who presented an intervention on the floor of CITES CoP on behalf of 24 other national and international non-profit organisations, said: “HSI/India has long highlighted the myriad threats faced by the small-clawed and smooth-coated otters, so we are delighted by these important CITES actions. Appendix I listings will send an important and timely warning, not least to online and social media audiences, that these are imperilled species and that trade in them is harmful to their welfare and their overall species survival. We hope that it will also lead to additional trade controls, enhanced scrutiny of captive-breeding operations, and aid enforcement, given the challenge in distinguishing between tropical Asian otter species once in trade.”

The decision needs to be ratified at the plenary session of the CITES conference on August 27/28th.

Media Contacts:

Shambhavi Tiwari, +91 8879834125 stiwari@hsi.org

Media contact at CITES CoP in Geneva: Sumanth Bindumadhav, +91 99808 72975 sbindumadhav@hsi.org

Humane Society International / India

DEHRADUN — Today Humane Society International/India launched “Abhay Sankalp,” a program dedicated to working with residential housing colonies to promote peaceful and harmonious coexistence between human beings and street dogs. The launch was attended by government officials of Dehradun Municipal Corporation and members of Uttarakhand’s legislative assembly. Residents of 70 housing societies from across Dehradun signed up to participate in the program.

Abhay Sankalp – Abhay Bano, Abhay Banao, is a program that works with resident welfare societies across the city to understand the concerns associated with street dogs and facilitate a better understanding of dog behaviour, dog bites, diseases such as rabies and other aspects of street dogs living in each neighbourhood. After signing up, the residential colonies will also pledge to work positively towards resolution of any issues related to people vis-a-vis dogs, in a respectful, participatory and humane way.

Vinay Shankar Pandey, Dehradun Municipal Commissioner, says, “Abhay Sankalp is a commendable effort towards promoting co-existence and human empathy for animals. With this effort, a positive atmosphere will be created to understand the behaviour of each other by re-establishing the long-term relationship of the dog, human beings and the love of humankind. I appreciate this innovative effort and send good wishes to the team.”

Rahul Sehgal, senior director for HSI’s Companion Animals & Engagement Program, says,

“Abhay Sankalp is the next logical long-term step in the process of making a peaceful environment for both people and dogs. It aims to provide accurate information to communities, but also works with communities to make humane decisions towards dogs that live in their areas. Our effort has laid the groundwork for meaningful participation from 70 societies, and we hope more will participate during the program.”

Shayam Sundar Chauhan, resident of Anshal Green Valley Society says, “Abhay Sankalp is a friendly approach for societies in Dehradun that spreads awareness regarding the laws on relocation of stray dogs. Adoption of Abhay Sankalp is the easiest way of living with stray dogs in societies. Hum abhay bane, abhay banae, bezubano ke liye.”*

HSI/India is also undertaking mass street dog sterilization and vaccination projects in Dehradun, Mussoorie, Nainital, Vadodara and Kodaikanal. Opting into Abhay Sankalp means that a community wants to ensure dog welfare by encouraging residents to feed them only in specific feeding spots, by not relocating street dogs and by being fully aware of the laws governing free-roaming street dogs.

*”Let us become fearless and make others fearless for innocent dogs who cannot speak.”



Media Contact: Uma Biswas, +91-8758807223, ubiswas@hsi.org

HSI/India will build capacity of government veterinary department if needed who will now carry this program forward

Humane Society International / India

MALAPPURAM—Humane Society International/India, on the completion of two years of its animal birth control (ABC) program at Malappuram in Kerala, has decided to hand over operations to the District Animal Husbandry Department and Jilla Panchayat.

Over the past two years, HSI/India’s dog management team has sterilized and vaccinated more than 2,700 dogs in Malappuram. In addition to sterilizing more than 70% of the dog population, HSI/India’s aim was to create healthy and safe coexistence between dogs and human beings. The team started work in early 2017 and has worked across regions of Poonani, Manjeri, Thenipalam,Tirur, Areekode and Chungathara.

Rahul Sehgal, senior director for HSI/India’s companion animals and engagement department, says, “HSI/India started the ABC program in Malappuram to curb dog culling and to deliver high quality spay and neuter. We initiated community engagement to highlight the importance of co-existence with these animals. Our team was supported wonderfully by the local administration and the Panchayats. The program ended on April 30, and the local administration has made arrangements to continue what we started and take it to the next level”.

Dr. Ayub, deputy director of the district animal husbandry office for Malappuram, says, “We are extremely happy at how the team has done the work so far and appreciate the leadership and skills in community work. In all the places where the HSI/India team has operated, they have managed to influence the public as well as the gram panchayats and community leaders into peaceful human – street dog coexistence. Also the work done during the Kerala floods and other rescue work are very commendable.”

In 2015 and 2016, Kerala came under scrutiny because of dog culling that was taking place across the state, a punishable offense under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It was during that time that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India reiterated the illegality and cruelty of dog culling and ordered a stop to it, citing implementation of Animal Birth Control Rules, 2001.

Media Contact: Uma Biswas, +91 8758807223, ubiswas@hsi.org


Humane Society International / India

PATNA — Humane Society International/India has joined with Bihar’s Department of Animal Husbandry, People for Animals and local organization Jag Jagran Sansthan to urge devotees of the Gadhimai festival in Nepal not to transport or sacrifice animals during the event this year in November, consistent with the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

The quinquennial festival has long been considered the largest animal sacrifice festival in the world; hundreds of thousands of buffalo, goats, chickens and other animals are decapitated to placate Gadhimai, the goddess of power. Following campaigns by HSI/India and PFA at the last Gadhimai in 2014, there was an estimated 70 per cent reduction in animal sacrifice. In 2015 temple authorities declared a ban on future animal sacrifice. The public awareness drive seeks to ensure that news of the ban reaches the estimated 5 million devotees expected to attend the event.

In a joint effort spanning many months and multiple languages and dialects, the organisations are running street plays, radio advertisements, billboards, and utilising local celebrity support across key districts of Bihar via which the majority of devotees travel to Nepal for the Gadhimai festival.

Arkaprava Bhar, Humane Society International/India’s regional manager for East India, said: “The decision by the Gadhimai temple committee to end the animal sacrifice should spare the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent animals. But for it to have impact we now have the huge task of making sure that the millions of people heading to Gadhimai are made aware of the temple’s ruling, and bring flowers, sweets and fruit to offer to the goddess instead of buffalo and birds. We are extremely grateful to the Government of Bihar for supporting our efforts to spread the news that the transport of animals to Nepal for religious sacrifice is illegal, and that the temple has also declared an end to this bloodshed. We hope that by watching our street theatre, listening to our radio ads, and reading our education materials, we can save as many animals as possible from a terrible and needles fate.”

The awareness drive started in early March and is now in its second phase in Muzaffarpur, bringing street plays to districts including Darbhanga, Madhubani, Supaul and Kishangan. Similar initiatives will be conducted in other districts of Bihar until October. The Government of Uttar Pradesh also joined with HSI/India and PFA earlier this year at the Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious congregation, to make attendees aware of the Gadhimal festival ban on animal sacrifice.

In 2014 the Sashastra Seema Bal, the border force at the Indo-Nepal border, was increased to intercept those attempting to bring live animals for sacrifice, and in total more than 2,000 animals were confiscated.

Mr. Vinod Gunjial, director of Bihar’s Animal Husbandry Department said: “With guards at the Indian-Nepalese border, the movement of animals can be controlled. The practise of sacrifice is not only brutal but also is very stressful to watch. We hope that with all these measures, the awareness drive should leave a positive impact on devotees of Gadhimai.”


  • The origins of Gadhimai are said to date back some 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 offered sacrifice of five animals instead, and this been repeated every five years since.
  • It is estimated that more than 500,000 animals including buffalo, goats, chickens and others were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009, but in 2014 the numbers had reduced by 70 percent.
  • The Gadhimai temple committee’s 2015 ban on animal sacrifice at the temple was announced after rigorous negotiations with the Temple Trust members by Animal Welfare Network Nepal, PFA and HSI/India.
  • While the temple’s ban on animal sacrifice is limited to the slaughter of buffalo within the main temple arena (as the only area that comes under its jurisdiction), it has appealed top devotees to refrain from all animal sacrifice that also takes place outside of the arena.

Download images from Awareness Drive and Gadhimai 2014 here.

Media Contact: Sanjana Rao, +91 8897827214, srao@hsi.org

Humane Society International / India

David Paul Morris

BANGALORE—In collaboration with Antoine Lewis, a renowned food and wine critic, Humane Society International/India organized a corporate roundtable focused on animal welfare trends in the food and hospitality industries.

The roundtable, which took place at Sheraton Grand, Bengaluru on March 8, saw participation from global leaders in the food and hospitality sector, including Sodexo, IKEA, Compass Group, Hilton, Marriott and Accor.

The event focused on supporting the development and implementation of animal welfare standards within corporate policies, with the purpose of improving the welfare of animals in the food supply chain. Considering the increasing consumer demand for ethical sourcing of food products and the parallel need for traceability, a transition away from battery-cage egg supply chains and towards cage-free egg supply chains and practices was highlighted. Additionally, consumers are increasingly paying attention to the massive negative impact high levels of consumption of meat, dairy and eggs has on the environment and their health, resulting in a growing trend towards the consumption of plant-based foods. To cater to this demand, participants discussed the need to increase the availability of plant-based food on menus.

Speakers included representatives from IKEA India; cage-free poultry farm, Happy Hens; plant-based meat company, Good Dot; and animal welfare experts from HSI. Antoine Lewis, food and wine critic from Mumbai, said, “Many chefs, hoteliers and restaurateurs I have spoken to have expressed a desire to move towards clean, ethically produced ingredients. This is a new area and naturally there are gaps between supply and demand. The roundtable will allow cage-free egg producers and the F&B industry to honestly understand the issues and challenges each faces and hopefully come up with equitable solutions.”

Humane Society International/India is assisting companies with developing and implementing cage-free commitments in their egg procurement policies.

Shreya Paropkari, manager of farm animal protection for Humane Society International/India, said “We are thrilled to be hosting India’s first corporate roundtable on animal welfare. Progressive companies in India have come together for this roundtable with the purpose to build a more humane, healthy and sustainable world. We are here to provide the support the companies require to help achieve this objective, and this roundtable is the first step towards more such collaborations.”

A similar conference will be conducted next week at JW Marriott, Mumbai, and will focus on relationship building with food and hospitality industry leaders and provide attendees with Humane Society International/India’s resources and assistance. Roshith Rajan, director of corporate social responsibility for Sodexo Asia Pacific, will be speaking at that event, sharing the company’s experience in the implementation of animal welfare standards.

Interview opportunities with Antoine Lewis and HSI expert Sara Shields available on request

Media Contact: Sanjana Rao, srao@hsi.org, +91 8897827214

Humane Society International / India

Erin Van Voorhies Street dog in Maharashtra, India

Vadodara— Gujarati film actress Deeksha Joshi of “Sharata Lagu” fame launched an initiative by Humane Society International/India called “Abhay Sankalp,” a programme working with residential housing colonies to ensure peaceful coexistence between street dogs and people. Representatives of 52 resident welfare associations and societies from across Vadodara signed up to participate in the campaign.

Abhay Sankalp – Abhay Bano, Abhay Banao, is a campaign to work with neighbourhoods across the city to better understand their issues with street dogs and facilitate a better understanding of rabies, dog behaviour and other aspects of street dogs living in each neighbourhood. After signing up, the residential colonies also pledge to work with HSI/India to humanely manage street dogs in their areas and bring about more responsible pet ownership amongst its members.

HSI/India implements mass street dog sterilization and vaccination projects in Dehradun, Mussoorie, Nainital, Vadodara and Malappuram. It is launching this campaign in Dehradun, Jamnagar, Malappuram and Vadodara, as a pilot. The aim is to get 400 societies signed up and actively involved in humanely supporting the management of the dogs in the community within a period of six months.

Help dogs and other animals all over the world

“Abhay Sankalp is the next step to peacefully co-existing with street dogs. Currently animal birth control projects only focus on the dogs, but no one is engaging the people around the dogs, which can result in conflicts between them. By law a street dog cannot be relocated or killed, therefore it is imperative to help communities understand dog behaviour, rabies and the importance of rabies vaccinations, how to avoid dog bites and very importantly, proper waste management,” says Rahul Sehgal, senior director for HSI Companion Animals & Engagement program.

“Animals never intend to harm us. Let’s try to respect their existence and provide them with the warmth and love they deserve. Let’s try to coexist in the best way possible with our furry friends!” emphasizes Deeksha Joshi.

“Abhay Sankalp is an immensely commendable initiative by HSI/India in Vadodara. I have had a very informative and enlightening exchange of information with the HSI team in the meeting recently organised in Sai Sarjan Society at Sun Pharma – Bhayli Road,” says Mr. Vijay Pathak, a resident of the Sun Crest Society.


Media contact: Uma Biswas, 91 8758807223, ubiswas@hsi.org

Humane Society International / Global


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