Animal Welfare

Thousands of buffalo slaughtered at Gadhimai Hindu Festival in Nepal

Animal Rights activists confirm the carnage

The Gadhimai Hindu festival began on Tuesday morning when religious worshippers began beheading an estimated 3,500 buffalo in Bariyarpur village in Nepal, some 200 km south of Kathmandu at the culmination of a month-long “mela” festival. An estimated two hundred butchers took part in the event which was attended by thousands of people from Nepal and India. The festival takes place every five years.

Humane Society International campaigners have described scenes that are enough to make anybody concerned about animal welfare want to weep. The describe baby buffaloes “bellowing as they watched their mothers being decapitated.” The added that others collapsed from “exhaustion, sickness and stress” as they were being dragged to their deaths by worshippers who believe that the ritual slaughter brings good luck by encouraging Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power, to answer their wishes.

The campaigning group Animal Equality has confirmed that it has obtained drone footage confirming the massacre of thousands of buffalo with machetes and knives. It has also reported scenes of sexual abuse of some animals at a temple, and of emaciated animals without enough food or water. Some calves were reported to have frozen to death while they were waiting to be slaughtered.

The official ban on slaughtering animals ignored

The sacrifices went ahead despite bans introduced since the last event in 2014. The Gadhimai Temple in Nepal in 2015 declared that there would be no further animal sacrifice at future festivals. But the temple ban has proved to be cosmetic. Animal rights activists have described the sense of coming up against an institutional wall of resistance. Animal sacrifice is an idea that is deeply ingrained in Hindu religious tradition. 

The Supreme Court of Nepal rules in September this year in favour of ending live animal sacrifice at the festival. In addition various government agencies, including the country’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation for this practice to stop. 

“One of the most depressing experiences of my life”

The managing director of the animal rights charity Humane Society International in India, Alokparna Sengupta, said that being at the festival was “one of the most depressing and challenging experiences of my life”.

“The suffering of these animals is so upsetting, they have endured exhausting journeys to get here and are paraded in front of a baying crowd as all around them they witness other animals being decapitated one by one,” she said.

“Buffalo calves look on in bewilderment as their mothers are slaughtered in front of them. The hysteria and apparent jubilation at seeing confused and frightened animals being slaughtered was very disturbing.”

“Buffalo calves look on in bewilderment as their mothers are slaughtered in front of them. The hysteria and apparent jubilation at seeing confused and frightened animals being slaughtered was very disturbing.”

“The government must act forcefully to prevent this bloodbath from taking place again or feel the impact of a tourist boycott,” said Sengupta.

“Devotees are bringing universal condemnation to a wonderful religion – which needn’t be based on fear and cruelty – and just as widow-burning and human-baby sacrifice have ended, so must the horror of an animal-slaughter festival.

“Gruesome images of animals looking up pitifully and struggling as they’re hacked into pieces ruin Nepal’s reputation, and we urge all of its compassionate citizens to join the international clamour for an end to such barbarity.”

265-year-old Festival shrinking

Historically at the end of the festival, “water buffalo, goats, chickens, pigs, pigeons, ducks and rats are decapitated with blunt metal tools in an alcohol-fuelled killing frenzy” according to HSI. The animal rights campaigners estimate that 70 per cent of the animals are usually brought across the border from India, “enduring days of suffering without adequate food, water or shelter during transport”. In 2014, HSI India successfully petitioned the Supreme Court of India in 2014 to stop these border crossings.

The Festival has been getting progressively smaller over the years as the protests have been getting louder. This work has been led by Humane Society International, India together with The Federation of Animal Welfare Nepal, Animal Welfare Network Nepal and People for Animals.

In 2009 it is estimated that about 500,000 buffaloes, goats, pigeons and other animals were killed. It is believed that a much smaller figure of 30,000 was killed in 2014. This year’s carnage is perhaps only 3,500. With luck, this barbaric event will never occur again.

The origins of Gadhimai date back around 265 years.

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Jill Harris

Jill is a writer, teacher, and passionate vegan. An eclectic author, she has published four non-fiction books and five novels. She began her vegan journey in 2015. She is a graduate and former lecturer at the Open University in psychology. Contact:
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