The End of Mass Slaughter of Animals at Gadhimai Festival, Nepal
4 August 2015
Humane Society International (HSI) welcomes the decision to abolish all future killing and violence towards animals at the Gadhimai Temple in Bariyarpur, Nepal, the world’s largest event of animal sacrifice. Millions of animals will be saved in ending these slaughters. The decision was announced on 29 July 2015 by the Gadhimai Temple Trust, and follows rigorous negotiations and campaigning by HSI. All future celebrations of the Gadhimai Festival at Bariyarpur will be peaceful celebrations, free from the carnage of previous years.
The Declaration to End Animal Sacrifice at Gadhimai Mela, Bariyarpur, Nepal, states that “the temple priest will neither participate in or encourage the sacrifice of any animal or bird at or around the premises of the Gadhimai temple in Bariyarpur, Nepal” and that “the temple committee, along with the priest, Mangal Chaudhary Tharu will actively promote and campaign against animal sacrifice and notify the public about their decision to end animal sacrifice”.
The Gadhimai Temple Trust Chairman, Mr Ram Chandra Shah said in a heart-warming statement “The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration…” and “The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.”
The Temple Committee has already decided not to sacrifice any animals during the Harvest Festival (Sankranti) earlier in 2015. Instead, the temple officials have been confiscating the animals and caring for them until rescuers can rehome them.
The origins of Gadhimai date back to around 265 years ago, when the founder of the Gadhimai Temple, Bhagwan Chowdhary, had a dream that the Hindu Goddess Of Power, Gadhimai, wanted blood in return for freeing him from prison, protecting him from evil and promising prosperity and power. According to myth, the goddess asked Bhagwan for a human sacrifice, but he successfully offered an animal sacrifice instead. This has been repeated every five years since, by people hoping for improvement in their own lives, in what is now known as the Gadhimai Festival.
Every five years, the streets of Bariyarpur were lined with ill-fated animals, most of which had been smuggled across the border from India and sold at inflated prices for the festival. The festival revolved around the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands innocent animals. The buffaloes, goats, pigs, roosters, pigeons, ducks and rats were gathered into the Gadhimai Temple grounds in Bariyarpur, Southern Nepal, where men dressed in red bandanas, and armed with razor sharp machetes, knives and swords decapitated the helpless animals while onlookers cheered. The following day, the animals were butchered for the meat and hides to be sold, often sent back across the border to India. The severed heads were discarded into large pits, many of which contained the remains from the sacrifices of previous years.
Determined to prevent this cruelty towards animals at Gadhimai, HSI collaborated with Manoj Gautam of Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) and HSI campaigner and Trustee, Gauri Maulekhi of People for Animals (PFA).
A petition was submitted to the Supreme Court of India, which passed an interim order banning the transport of animals across the border for the festival. HSI and AWNN worked with the Department of Livestock Services in Nepal to develop a plan to regulate the transport and evaluate the health of the animals brought to the site. Volunteers stayed at border crossings to block the transport of animals from India to Nepal. In 2014 the number of animals sacrificed dropped from the 2009 toll by around 75 percent.
HSI and AWNN helped sensitise key members of the government including Nepal's Prime Minister, President and other officials and urged them to end their support for the festival. HSI and AWNN also conducted intense negotiations with members of the Gadhimai Temple Trust to convince them to end the sacrifice. Now, the temple trust and the government have agreed to end support for animal sacrifice at Gadhimai Festival, Bariyarpur altogether.
Although this is very welcome news, there are still huge challenges ahead. The public still need to be convinced to avoid similar animal sacrifice rituals that have become accepted as tradition through generations of superstition. HSI will now focus on spending the next three and a half years until the next peaceful Gadhimai, raising awareness in local communities and educating devotees about the Temple Trusts’ decision not to sacrifice animals
Full Statement from Gadhimai Temple Trust Chairman, Mr Ram Chandra Shah:
“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.
“Our concern has been this: how do we convince the people, so desperate for the favour of Gadhimai, that there is another way? How do we bring them on our journey? Thankfully, the dedicated efforts of the Animal Welfare Network Nepal and Humane Society International has shown us the path and provided the motivation to make this transformation a reality.
“The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.
“Through mass education and local development, we can bring enlightenment and prosperity to our region. We appeal for your support to develop our local infrastructure and educate our people. There is much work to be done, but together we can develop the social fabric of the Gadhimai area and bring peace to the Gadhimai Temple.”
All photo credit to Kuni Takahashi for HSI