Cattle seized on Indo-Nepal border in animal sacrifice crackdown ahead of Gadhimai festival
Raxaul, India: Animal protection group Humane Society International (HIS), India says it hopes an India-Nepal border crackdown will reduce the number of animals killed in this year’s Gadhimai festival, which involves the ritual beheading of tens of thousands of buffaloes, goats and other animals. The mass sacrifice in the Bara district of Nepal, which takes place every five years, is set to take place on December 2 and 3.
The Gadhimai Temple, which originally pledged an animal sacrifice ban in 2015, has fallen silent on the issue and so HSI and other local animal and faith groups are appealing directly to the Prime Minister of Nepal to intervene to stop the bloodshed.
Hopes of a bloodless Gadhimai appear to be waning as HSI/Nepal confirms that more than 2,000 buffaloes have already been taken across the border, mostly under cover of darkness, to the sacrifice arena. Some buffalo calves are reported to have died in the arena from suspected diarrhoea and exposure to the cold, and others have fallen sick.
Teams from Humane Society International, Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal, and People for Animals have deployed on either side of the border to assist India’s armed police, the Sashastra Seema Bal, who are seizing animals illegally brought across for sacrifice. Accompanying the law enforcement officers as they stop and check vehicles, HSI is assisting by removing animals that are found, and talking to devotees about the ban. HSI reports that hundreds of buffaloes and goats have been seized so far, and hundreds more turned away to make the journey back to India.
Humane Society International/India’s team is being led by managing director Alokparna Sengupta, who has spent the last several days assisting the SSB at Raxaul, the closest border town to Gadhimai. Indian families starting their journey on foot, as well as Nepali devotees who purchased animals in India for sacrifice, have been stopped by the SSB and had their animals removed, mainly goats and pigeons.
At its height in 2009, around 500,000 buffalo, goats, pigeons and other animals were slaughtered at Gadhimai, but thanks to tireless efforts by HIS, India and others the death toll at the gruesome event was considerably reduced in 2014 to around 30,000 animals.
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.