Progress toward abolishing animal sacrifice in Nepal and India

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2007:
KATHMANDU–“Though a ceasefire between the government and the
Maoist guerrillas has held for over a year now,” India News Service
reporter Sudeshna Sarkar wrote from the Nepalese capital city of
Kathmandu on October 19, 2007, “Nepal is passing through one of
its goriest periods with thousands of animals being sacrificed daily
on the occasion of Dashain, the biggest Hindu festival in the
“On the eighth day of the nearly fortnight-long
celebrations,” Sarkar explained, “animal killings reach a
crescendo, with buffaloes, goats, and chickens being slaughtered.”
But since the recent dissolution of the Nepalese theocracy,
Sarkar noted, dissent against the sacrifices–formerly personally
led by the king–has emerged.

“Amid growing protest by animal rights activists, hundreds of
red-robed lamas stopped speaking in monasteries across 22 districts,”
Sarkar said, “to issue silent prayers for the welfare of all
creatures of god. The prayers started from Lumbini in southern
Nepal, where the Buddha was born.”
Sarkar cited an “opinion poll by a private television station,”
which “showed over 60% of the respondents said the festival would
remain incomplete without animal sacrifices.”
But Damodar Neupane of the Kathmandu Post approvingly
profiled the villages of Chumchet and Chhekampar, in Gorkha, “eight
days’ walk” from the seat of regional government, where the
Bhutan-born guru Dukpa Ringpoche Serab Dorje abolished animal
sacrifice in 1917.
“Five years after his arrival all the villagers had gone
vegetarian,” Neupane wrote.
“Nobody breached the rule,” recalled 91-year-old villager
Chhewang Laharke. “Everyone follows the teachings of the guru,
which have become an integral part of our precious culture.”
Added local guru Dawang Khenrab, “We have taken the decision
to discourage other people from animal sacrifice.”
Kathmandu-based BBC reporter Charles Haviland observed that
“New dissenters are questioning both the scale and the methods of the
killing. An article in the Nepali Times weekly says most buffaloes,
like smaller animals, are decapitated but the bigger ones are
battered to death with a heavy hammer on the forehead.
“Respected botanist Tirtha Shrestha, writing in the same
paper, says that in Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, pigs are skinned
alive and their beating hearts offered to the temple, while in a
nearby village people tear apart a live goat. ‘Decapitating a
bleating buffalo or goat should not be the symbol of the Nepali
civilisation,’ he says. ‘Why are we exhibiting such cruelty, and how
does this reflect on our society?’
“The suffering of the people of Nepal [in the recent civil
war] and the slaughter of [nine members of] the family of the King”
in a June 2000 rage massacre attributed to a prince who later shot
himself “is due to such stupid practices,” opined Blue Cross of
India chief executive Chinny Krishna, who has made personal efforts
to encourage Nepalese opposition to sacrifice.
“I am convinced that all the troubles for the kings of Nepal
is due to their cruel participation and perpetuation of this barbaric
practice,” Krishna continued. “If the kings believe in the Hindu
philosophy, they must surely know that there is an inexorable law of
action and reaction under which cruelty begets more cruelty and
But similar sacrifices continue in parts of India, exempted
from prosecution by Section 28 of the federal Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals Act of 1960, which says, “Nothing contained in this Act
shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by
the religion of any community.”
Reported The Statesman, of Kolkata, “Reports of
slaughtering of nearly 200 animals poured in from three prominent
shakti shrines during the midnight hours on 19 October.
“Tradition was allowed to prevail. Animal sacrifice is
practised by the local politicians, the police and the revenue
officials,” explained animal advocate Bijoy Kabi. “The first goat
butchered at the Satabhaya shrine was offered by a police station,”
Kabi alleged.
“Eid followed by Durga Puja, and you have blood and more
blood flowing country-wide,” lamented Assamese activist Azam
Siddique, referring to the Feast of Atonement slaughters practiced
by Muslims and the more common Indian term for the occasion called
Dasain in Nepal and Dasara in southern India.
Siddique described several sacrifices he had heard about in
Assam, and recalled that “in a place called Belsor,” where 100
buffalos were sacrificed this year, “the superintendent of police
last year sacrificed and danced with a buffalo head on his shoulders.
This year it is alleged that a senior minister in the state
government was also party to the slaughter,” Siddique added.
But Bano Haralu of New Delhi Television profiled the
Haatkhola Dutta Bari family of north Kolkata, who gave up animal
sacrifice in 1794, and have now shunned sacrifice for 28 generations.
State and city governments have some leeway to ban or
restrict sacrifice in public places. “Animal sacrifice as part of
Dasara festivities has been banned under the Karnataka Prevention of
Animal and Bird Sacrifice Act since 1959,” The Hindu reminded
Bangalore residents on October 19.
The Hindu mentioned the next day that, “Animal sacrifice for
Dasara has been banned in the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal
Corporation limits,” and that “Violators would be prosecuted under
the Andhra Pradesh Animals and Birds Sacrifice Prohibition Act of
1950, according to city veterinary officer N. Karunakara Rao.”
In Cuttack, The Hindu noted on October 22, “In the absence
of any specific law banning animal sacrifice in the country, the
district administration was able to sensitize the people against this
age-old practice.”
Said district deputy collector [deputy chief administrator] Aditya Mohapatra “No report of any animal sacrifice was received
from any part of Cuttack district.”
The four major temples in the district reportedly ended
animal sacrifice in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively.

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