Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Nepal temple bans animal sacrifice

In a significant move that will save millions of animals, Nepal's Gadhimai temple trust on Tuesday announced a ban on animal sacrifice at the Gadhimai festival, the world's biggest animal sacrifice event held every five years.

The trust also urged devotees not to bring animals to the festival, a Hindu religious practice which has been continuing for the last 300 years. The decision will make it a bloodless festival where devotees can pray and celebrate without indulging in animal sacrifice in the hope of a better life.

"The Gadhimai temple trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure the festival in 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life," chairman of the temple trust Ram Chandra Shah said.

The ban comes in the wake of India's Supreme Court recently prohibiting movement of animals from India to Nepal for the festival. Animal rights activists in India and Nepal had been demanding such a ban for long.

Shah said, "For generations, pilgrims have sacrificed animals to the Goddess Gadhimai, in the hope of a better life. For every life taken, our heart is heavy. The time has come to transform an old tradition. The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration."

In 2014, a global campaign by Humane Society International-India and Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) against the Gadhimai animal massacre captured public imagination when thousands of national and international supporters expressed their displeasure against the ruthless killing.

Gauri Maulekhi, HIS-India consultant and trustee, People for Animals (PFA), who petitioned the Supreme Court against the movement of animals from India to Nepal for the Gadhimai festival, said, "This is a tremendous victory for compassion that will save the lives of countless animals... 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."

She said HIS-India will spend the next three-and-a-half years educating devotees in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal on the temple trust's decision not to sacrifice animals.

It is estimated that more than 500,000 buffalos, goats, chickens and other animals were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009, but the numbers had reduced significantly in 2014.

The Supreme Court had recently issued directions to states to set up mechanisms to prevent animals from being taken to Gadhimai and create awareness against animal sacrifice. The apex court's order resulted in more than 100 arrests of those breaching the order.

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 endeavour for protecting animals in the country."


The temple trust's decision to stop the practice of animal sacrifice at the annual Gadhimai festival is most welcome. Hopefully, it will also provoke others to introspect on whether sacrificing animals for religious rituals is in keeping with modern sensibilities and whether such practices are really intrinsic to their faith. Should religion be about celebrating and preserving life in all its myriad forms or should it treat some wanton destruction of life as acceptable? What would killings of animals have anything to do with devotion? These are the questions all those who still practice animal sacrifice in the name of religion need to ask themselves. 

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