World's largest animal sacrifice has started, despite ban

World's largest animal sacrifice has started, despite ban

More than 200 Hindi worshipers have butchered thousands of buffalo in the last 48 hours as part of 'the world's biggest animal sacrifice'.

Butchers wielding swords and knives have taken to a walled-0ff area of remote Nepal for the Gadhimai Festival - a two-day event that is held in honor of the Hindu goddess Gadhimai.

The last Gadhimai Festival took place in 2014, where some 200,000 animals were butchered, the Daily Mail reports, which is a significant decrease from the 500,000 animals killed during the 2009 festival.

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The event kicked off in the early hours of yesterday morning, in a ceremony known as the "pancha bali". This saw the sacrificial slaughter of a goat, rat, chicken, pig. and a pigeon. A local shaman then offered blood from five points of his own body.

The event is held in a walled arena slightly largest than a soccer field, and thousands of people flood in to witness the butcher.

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Birendra Prasad Yadav, a member of the festival organizing committee, has said: "The sacrifices have begun [December 3]. We had tried not to support it but people have faith in the tradition and have come here with their offerings."

The festival is said to date back around 265 years, when Bhagwan Chowdhary, a feudal landlord and the founder of the Gadhimai Temple, was imprisoned in Makawanpur Jail. In a dream, he was told that all his problems would be resolved if he made a blood sacrifice to the goddess Gadhimai.

In order to free him from prison and protect him from evil, Gadhimai promised Chowdhary prosperity and power in return for blood, for which he offered animals' blood.

The event takes place every five years.

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The Humane Society International has reported that despite many animals also dying from stress and weakness at the event, the total number of slaughtered creatures has been many thousands fewer than in previous years.

Humane Society International/India’s team is being led by managing director Alokparna Sengupta, who is currently working with the Sashastra Seema Bal (one of India's Central Armed Police Forces) at Raxaul at the border of the town to Gadhimai. The HSI stated that many families were stopped by the SSB and had their animals removed.

Sengupta said of this year's event on the official HSI website:

Virtually everyone being stopped by the SSB is aware that the Gadhimai Temple declared a ban on animal sacrifice, but they are bringing animals anyway.

"Our HSI/India team has been talking to devotees and helping with the animals, and it’s clear that the habit of providing a blood sacrifice for the goddess has persisted for so long that it is very hard to change people’s mindset. So far at least, we‘ve seen fewer animals than we did this time at the last festival five years ago, and we hope at least to reduce the bloodshed if not to stop it altogether.

"The harrowing scenes from the last Gadhimai still haunt me, with decapitated buffalo as far as the eye could see. I dread going back there, but we must bear witness and do all we can for these helpless animals."

It was reported in 2015 by the Humane Society International and the Animal Welfare Network Nepal that temple authorities had agreed to "cancel all future animal sacrifice" and "[urged] devotees not to bring animals to the festival".

The director of Humane Society International in Nepal, Tanuja Basnet, has added:

"Here in Nepal there is growing opposition to this blood festival, and we urge all stakeholders to respect the Supreme Court’s verdict. Animal welfare groups and religious groups, including some Dalit groups, are opposing the killing and promoting compassion to animals instead. If the Dalit do refuse to kill or remove the bodies, it will present the Temple with a health and safety headache because the carcasses will be left to rot."