Nepal campaigners call for end to animal sacrificesBy Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
KATHMANDU - One year after Nepal shocked animal lovers worldwide by the slaughter of thousands of birds and animals at a Hindu temple close to the Indian border, animal rights campaigners Wednesday began a sombre purification ceremony to commemorate the pains of the victims and renew their appeal for an end to animal sacrifices.
The cleansing march and candle-light vigil is led by Pramada Shah, niece-in-law of deposed king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah, who however has refused to lend his voice to the campaign, saying he was a “Hindu first”.
Last year, the Gadhimai temple in Bara district on the Indo-Nepal border, thronged by thousands of Indians from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, turned into the largest “animal killing field” as devotees butchered nearly 250,000 animals, including buffaloes, goats, pigs, sheep and poultry, turning the area into a river of blood strewn with carcasses.
The festival, that takes place once in five years, was held on Nov 24-25 in 2009 with the biggest sacrifices offered by Indians as a thanksgiving to the power goddess in the belief that she made women give birth to sons and cured people from diseases.
Nepal’s government turned a deaf ear to the calls worldwide asking to stop the wanton killings. They included noted French actor Brigitte Bardot and India’s animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi.
Shah said campaigners were commemorating the ‘world’s largest animal sacrifice’ by lighting candles in the memory of each animal killed and appealing to the organising committee and government to conduct vegetarian sacrifices during the next Gadhimai festival, scheduled for 2014.
The Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN), that was among the campaigners, said the organisers violated every single code of animal welfare and the public beheading of some 20,000 water buffaloes ranked among “the worst examples of animal cruelty in the world”.
“Our message is a simple one: Never Again,” said Shah, AWNN president. “We also want to pray for the souls of the sacrificed animals and purify the place that saw so much animal suffering last year.”
AWNN says animal sacrifice promotes superstition and violence and prevents Nepal from becoming a truly advanced country. Nepal, realising the adverse effects, has abolished a number of traditions, including human sacrifice and widow burning.
“The priests make the devotees believe that their wish will come true only when offering an expensive buffalo, goat or any other kind of animal,” AWNN said. “Thus people are deceived.”
Former king Gyanendra, who has been one of the most prominent Nepalis offering animal sacrifices in Nepal and India, however is not ready to raise his voice against the tradition for fear of losing the support he still enjoys from hardcore Hindus who are seeking the restoration of monarchy.
Asked if he would join the appeals to stop animal sacrifices, he had told IANS during the launch of an NGO by his daughter-in-law in Kathmandu, “I am a Hindu first.”
Though Nepal, once the only Hindu kingdom in the past, became secular four years ago, a succession of governments has failed to ban animal sacrifices and even slash the state fund for such rituals for fear of a public outcry.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)