Every five years, animals and birds are slaughtered in the name of the Hindu deity Gadhimai. The event on the premises of Gadhimai Temple in the village of Bariyapur is believed to be the largest ritual sacrifice anywhere in the world and draws thousands of visitors from India and Nepal.
French actress and animal advocate Brigitte Bardot is one of those who sent a letter to Nepal's President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, who is a Hindu, pleading with him to stop the Gadhimai sacrifice. "I have dedicated my life to protect animals and the best gift I could receive for this lifelong struggle would be the announcement of the stopping of ritual sacrifice of animals," Bardot wrote. "I personally find it hard to imagine that your heart can withstand such cruelty, knowing that you, being the head of the country, are ultimately responsible."
The advocacy organization Animal Nepal is organizing protest events in Kathmandu ahead of the event and filing a case at the Supreme Court, as well as performing a symbolic ritual blessing in the hope that compassion will reign.
In addition, the Animal Welfare Network Nepal, which shares the Animal Nepal headquarters office, has joined with Anti Animal Sacrifice Alliance in an 11th hour plea to head priest Mangal Chaudhary and organizing committee chairman Shiva Chandra Kushwaha to stop the killing.
An Animal Nepal poster protesting the Gadhimai sacrifice. (Photo courtesy Animal Nepal)
"We beg to you on our knees to consider our plea. You, as the main two responsible persons for the world's largest animal sacrifice, have the ability to show wisdom, compassion and courage by doing everything in your power to abolish the killing of innocent creatures in the name of the God. If you do so, the world will always remember you as the key decision-makers in stopping the killings," the groups wrote.
The plea was reinforced during a symbolic peace ritual today at the Gahawa Mai temple in Birgunj.
Animal Welfare Network Nepal has also petitioned Nepal's ministers of tourism, agriculture, peace and law and justice to put an end to the sacrifice.
Humane Society International says, "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 and its supporters are beseeching Nepalese leaders with a letter writing campaign, saying, "Even tradition is no excuse for cruelty in a civilized society."
In a November 3 article in the "Kathmandu Post," Maneka Gandhi appealed to the people of Nepal to abandon the killing of animals at the Gadhimai Festival.
A minister in four governments, the Indian politician, animal rights activist, and environmentalist said that this is not a way to honor the goddess, who will be instead be dishonored by the deaths and suffering of the animals. "Priests frighten villagers into believing that terrible things will happen if the goddess is not placated with animal sacrifices," she wrote.
She detailed the ways in which the festival is a profitable enterprise for priests, moneylenders and animal sellers. "The festival is a business, and profit is the motive for killing so many animals. Villagers go into debt to buy the animals to be sacrificed. Debt leads to bankruptcies, and when the small farmersí lands are confiscated to become the property of large landowners, then the former farmers become day laborers," wrote Gandhi. "The festival exploits both humans and animals."
The local business community is expected to raise about two million euros from sales of animal hides and carcasses as well as payment for logistics and recreational facilities.
The Tibetan Buddhist master Lama Zopa Rinpoche is requesting that all Buddhist centers and students read the Golden Light Sutra and pray that the killing may be halted before it begins. "I have asked Kopan Gompa [near Kathmandu] to send some monks to read it at the stupa and make strong prayers for the sacrifice not to happen, to dedicate like that and of course dedicate for world peace," said Lama Zopa in a widely circulated email.
The Buddha Boy, known for his Buddha-like ascetic life in the jungle, today moved to the Gadhimai Temple in an attempt to stop the sacrifice in the district where he was born and raised. Officially called by his Tibetan name Palden Dorje Tamang Rinpoche, or by his Nepali name Ram Bahadur Bomjan, he intends to preach non-violence and offer a blessing at the venue to stop the slaughter.
Animals slaughtered at a previous Gadhimai event (Photo by Hamroblog)
Pramada Shah, director and vice president of Animal Nepal, explains what will happen during the Gadhimai event. "The fair reaches its climax on an 'auspicious' day, when thousands of buffaloes are sacrificed. The blood letting that takes place turns the entire area into a marshy land of blood," she says. "It is expected that this year some 60,000 young he-buffaloes will be killed, as well as an additional 140,000 chicken, goats, pigs, birds and other poultry."
"The sacrifice starts with the offering of five different animals: pig, buffalo, goat, wild rats and birds which include chicken and pigeon. The different animals represent the mental obscurations sacrificed by the community including anger, stupidity and desire," Shah explains. "After the sacrifice of the first animal, a goat, thousands of pigeons are sacrificed by severing their heads. Next three wild rats are brought and sacrificed before a comb-like pole."
"After this," says Shah, "more than 250 people carrying naked swords and axes wrapped in red clothes, all with a license to kill, approach the temple. They frantically rush towards the field where more than 7,000 young buffaloes are kept. Before the beasts are slaughtered, seven buffaloes tied to a pole undergo the sacrificial ritual."
The animal advocates are also appealing to the Gadhimai visitors urging them to keep the animals at home or donate the animals to them. Animal Welfare Network Nepal and the Department of Livestock Services have made arrangements to shelter any donated animals.
Organizers of the sacrifice claim a slaughterhouse has been built at a cost of over five million rupees to kill the animals and about 250 butchers have been hired.
Nepal's government, wary of new disruptions threatened by the former Maoist guerrillas, has declined to ban the slaughter despite warnings by animal experts that the killings could trigger swine flu, bird flu and cattle diseases and have severe impacts upon the environment.
Animal advocates request that flowers, fruits and vegetables, incense sticks, sweets and coconuts instead of animals and their blood be offered to appease the goddess.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.