Thousands of buffaloes have been beheaded by Hindu worshippers in Nepal, in what’s believed to be the world’s biggest animal sacrifice event.
A priest launched the Gadhimai Festival in the early hours of Tuesday morning by killing a goat, rat, chicken, pig and pigeon, before offering blood from his own body.
Campaigners from animal rights charity Humane Society International were left horrified after seeing baby buffaloes bellowing as they watched their mothers being decapitated during the cruel sacrifice.
It comes as thousands of people from Nepal and neighbouring India travelled to Bariyarpur village to watch the festival, which takes place every five years.
The Gadhimai Festival went ahead despite authorities announcing it would be banned in 2015, after Nepal’s supreme court directed the government to reduce animal sacrifice a year later.
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 recalled seeing ‘buffalo calves look on in bewilderment as their mothers are slaughtered in front of them’.
Sengupta said they pleaded with the Temple priest to do something to stop the bloodshed, as he’s the only person who has the influence to make a difference. However, she says as far as she’s aware he has done nothing.
The only saving grace, Sengupta says, is that the Humane Society International has managed 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.
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.
Back in 2009, around 500,000 buffaloes, goats, pigeons and other animals were brutally killed at the height of the festival’s popularity. This number was reduced to 30,000 at the 2014 event following mass protests.
Some Hindus believe the slaughtering ritual brings good luck and encourages Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power, to answer their wishes.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.