“God is not Dracula”–but sacrifice continues

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2009:


KATHMANDU, MULTAN– “God is not Dracula!” protested Animal
Save Movement Pakistan president Khalid Mahmood Qurashi via posters,
web postings, and press releases as the annual Eid ul Azha began in
Saudi Arabia on November 27, 2009, and continued around the world
for four days.
Qurashi reminds fellow Muslims every year that Islam requires
charitable acts at the Eid, not blood sacrifice. This year Qurashi
found himself reminding Hindus, too, as the Eid slaughters were
compounded by the sacrificial massacre days earlier of more than a
quarter of a million animals in Bariyarpur, a Nepalese village near
the Bijar border.

The Eid celebrates the conclusion of the Haj pilrimage to
Mecca, which observant Muslims are to make once in their lifetime,
if able. Reports from Saudi Arabia indicate that about 685,000
sheep, goats, and other animals were killed for the Eid in 2009,
continuing a slight downward trend evident for several decades.
Globally, as many as 20 million animals were killed for Eid
feasts–but, under pressure from governments throughout the Islamic
world, more and more of the killing is done in slaughterhouses, and
less by untrained heads of households at curbside.
“Work to rectify this situation in Turkey has yielded fruit
in recent years, with the Directorate of Religious Affairs working
in conjunction with regional municipal and agricultural authorities
to reduce the unsanitary and unacceptable conditions,” reported the
Istanbul newspaper Zaman.
The Bariyarpur slaughter, however, may have been the
biggest yet, and the promoters reportedly made no concessions to
either animal welfare or sanitation.
“The history of this bloodthirsty event began when Bhagwan
Chaudhary, a feudal landlord, was imprisoned about 260 years ago,”
wrote Anil Bhanot for The Guardian, of London. “He dreamed that all
his problems would be solved if he made a blood sacrifice to
Gadhimai,” a Hindu goddess worshipped by the Bhojpuri people who
inhabit the Nepal/Bijar border region.
Bhagwan Chaudhary and a local faith healer conducted the
sacrifice upon his release from prison. The killing in 2009 began
when Dukha Kachadiya, a descendant of the faith healer, “started
the ritual with drops of his own blood from five parts of his body,”
wrote Bhanot. Mangal Chaudhary, a descendant of Bhagwan Chaudhary,
then beheaded the first of about 16,000 buffalo. The buffalo
massacre was followed by the killing of about 50,000 goats, and then
other animals including sheep, poultry, and rats.
The Maoist-dominated Nepalese government spent 4.5 million
rupees to build open-air slaughtering facilities, but most of the
massacre reportedly occurred wherever massacre participants found
themselves. The government motivation was money, reported Laxmi Sah
and Pawan Yadav of the Kathmandu Post: “Contractors have paid 5.1
million rupees for the use of flesh, hide and bones of the animals,”
who were brought to the slaughter mostly at the expense of the
participants, though the Nepalese government also purchases some
animals for sacrifice as a political gesture.
“Earlier, the festival management committee used to earn
nearly two million rupees selling hides, while the local dalits
[poorest of the poor] ate the flesh,” sacrifice committee vice chair
Dhenukh Chaurasiya told Sah and Yadav.
“The dalit community has refused to consume the flesh of the
slaughtered animals this year,” Sah and Yadav noted.
“Five years ago Nepalese king Gyanendra attended the Gadhimai
festival, throwing his weight behind the orgy of sacrifice,”
observed the Times of India News Network. “Today, with his crown
abolished, the former king’s kin leads a passionate campaign to
prevent animal sacrifice.”
“I stopped animal sacrifice at my parents’ house when I was
eight,” explained Pramada Shah, president of Animal Welfare Network
Nepal. “When I was married to Ashish Shah, Gyanendra’s nephew, I
realised animal sacrifice was deeply rooted in the family tradition.
However, I put an end to it.” Shah joined with spiritual leader Ram
Bahadur Bomjan, called the Buddha Boy by devotees, and with
activists around the world to organize opposition to the Gadhimai
slaughter. “The government used the lame excuse that this is an
ancient culture that should run its course,” Shah said. “We intend
to work in coordination with Indian groups to raise awareness among
the visitors, of whom 60 to 80% are Indian. We also want to work
with the local communities, with the hope that the next Gadhimai
festival will be different.”
“The organizers violated every code of animal welfare. The
animals were not provided with any water and food in the days before
the sacrifice,” testified Roots & Shoots Nepal representative Manoj
Gautam. “Many young animals had already died from stress,
exhaustion and dehydration before the killing started. Their bodies
were left among the live animals. The sacrifices were carried out
randomly within a radius of three kilometers of the temple. Everyone
could kill anything, with whatever knife or sword. Butchers holding
swords hacked randomly at thousands of buffalo. No one was holding
the buffalo–many tried to escape. Baby buffalo were bleating and
searching for their mothers. Not a single animal survived. The
Gadhimai festival committee, despite countless promises, failed to
provide a space where animals could be left for jeevandhan,” or
ritual mercy.
“Baby buffalo came up to me wanting to be petted. They were
scared and needed some comfort,” said Animal Nepal program manager
Krishna Singh.
“A baby buffalo came up to me and touched my tripod,”
recalled photographer Bibi Funyal. “I felt I would pass out if I
continued filming. When I left, I had to step over thousands of
bodies and heads and wade through animal blood.”
“Now that I have observed the festival, I am convinced that
these killings are among the worst cruelty in the world,” said Dutch
journalist Lucia de Vries.
“The Gadhimai killing brings to light what happens every day
in slaughterhouses across the planet,” responded Nepalese writer,
film maker, and blogger Sushma Joshi. “The only difference is that
we see the crudeness with which animals are killed. I, an aspiring
vegetarian, almost support sacrifices for this reason–because it
provides a mirror for the world to see exactly what goes on their
Three infants died of exposure and one man died after
drinking moonshine during the Gadhimai festival, the Indo-Asian News
Service and Nepali daily Kantipur reported. All four victims were
from Bijar.
“It is unfortunate that Hinduism, which is the earliest
religion to forsake the killing of animals, is misused to sacrifice
animals,” wrote C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation director Nanditha
Krishna. “The Rig Veda, the most ancient book of the Hindus, says
‘One who partakes of human flesh, the flesh of a horse or another
animal and deprives others of milk by slaughtering cows, O King, if
such a fiend does not desist by other means, then you should not
hesitate to cut off his head.’ The Yajur Veda adds ‘You must not use
your God-given body for killing God’s creatures.’ The Atharva Veda
says ‘Those noble souls who practice meditation and other yogic ways,
who are ever careful about other beings, who protect all animals,
are those who are serious about spiritual practices.’
“Contemporary Hindu ritual is based on the Manusmruti. Manu
lashed out against all forms of sacrifice and meat-eating,” Krishna
Nanditha Krishna’s husband, Blue Cross of India chief
executive Chinny Krishna, invited Animals In Islam author Basheer
Ahmad Masri to Chennai shortly before Al Masri’s death in 1993, “to
make a case among Muslims not to sacrifice goats for the Eid, and to
give sweets instead of mutton to honor the occasion,” wrote Sharon
St. Joan of the Best Friends Network. The mission had little effect
on Eid slaughters, but then-Chennai mayor Abul Hassan was persuaded,
and later endorsed the prototype for the Indian national Animal Birth
Control program, ending the killing of street dogs.

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