Every five years, thousands of people in Nepal and from India travel to Bariyarpur, previously a town, now converted into municipality located in the Narayani Zone of south-eastern Nepal, for the Gadhimai Festival. Thousands of animals are sacrificed to Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power, in the belief that she will end evil and bring prosperity.
Despite authorities banning the festival in 2015, a priest prepared and started the Gadhimai Festival early on Tuesday morning by killing a goat, rat, chicken, pig and pigeon, and an offering of his own blood.
Campaigners from the Humane Society International were horrified seeing baby buffaloes bellowing seeing their mothers being decapitated during the sacrifice.
Alokparna Sengupta, managing director of Humane Society International in India, witnessed the cruel tradition and described it was ‘one of the most depressing and challenging experiences of my life’. She saw ‘buffalo calves look on in bewilderment as their mothers are slaughtered in front of them’.
Sengupta explained that they pleaded with the Temple priest, the only person with the influence to make a difference, to stop the bloodshed but as far as she knows he had done nothing.
However, the Humane Society International did manage to save thousands more animals from suffering the same fate.
‘’We helped save hundreds of baby goats, pigeons and buffaloes at the border, and devotees have brought thousands fewer buffaloes than at previous Gadhimai events. We may not have a bloodless Gadhimai this time, but we are determined that one day we will see an end to this gruesome spectacle’’, Sengupta said.
Tanuja Basnet, director of Humane Society International in Nepal, who also witnessed the bloodshed, added:
‘’There is no justification for this mass killing, and it is truly heart breaking to witness, especially knowing that the Temple could and should have kept its promise to help these animals.
‘’If we had not acted, the lives of many thousands more animals would have been wasted. But it is now time for the Nepal government to step up and introduce a ban in law on animal sacrifice so that this is the last time we witness such horrors at Gadhimai.’’
In 2009, around 500,000 animals which included buffaloes, goats, pigeons and other animals were brutally killed for sacrifice. Following mass protests at the 2014 festival, the number was drastically reduced to 30,000, however, according to the ban, the 2014 event was supposed to be the last one.
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