Kathmandu: About 5,000 buffaloes were slaughtered in a religious sacrifice in Nepal, in spite of efforts of animal rights activists to end the practice.
This mass animal sacrifice was part of the Gadhimai festival, held in Bariyarpur in Nepal`s Bara district, in which tens of thousands of animals, including buffaloes, goats and birds were sacrificed as an act of gratitude to Hindu goddess Gadhimai, The Guardian reported Friday, the first day of the festival.
The organisers of the festival claimed that about five million devotees attended the rituals to sacrifice the animals and seek the blessings of the goddess.
However, the number of buffaloes killed on the occasion dropped to about 5,000, which was half the number slaughtered when the festival was last held five years ago and this is seen as a sign that the animal rights campaign has had some impact.
"The numbers went down because the Indian court banned the ferrying of animals from India to Nepal," said Ram Chandra Shah, chairman of the Gadhimai temple management committee, adding, "The animal rights activism has had some effect."
However, the worshippers are as enthusiastic as ever, he said.
For most festival goers, the event is a special family occasion, a chance to thank the goddess and also shop for knick-knacks, enjoy the fairground rides and share a picnic.
"I promised the goddess that if I made good money in my business, I would sacrifice a goat for her," said a devotee, Rajesh Shah, as he cooked the animal he had just killed.
"I`ve heard of the complaints about this festival, but I had already prayed for my business to improve, so I had to keep my promise to the goddess," he said.
The buffaloes are slaughtered in a huge compound surrounded by a high wall. Hundreds of men, especially chosen for the task, walk among the animals decapitating them with long curved machetes.
Joginder Patel, a veteran of five festivals, said the job of killing the buffaloes was a great honour.
"Today we are feeling sad because we were not able to stop the slaughter. We feel we have been defeated. However... the number of animals killed has come down," said Shristi Singh Shrestha, an animal rights activist with Animal Welfare Network Nepal.