Despite mounting pressure from Nepalese and international campaigners, organizers of Gadhimai Jatra are all set to kill half a million animals in just two days. The government till now has failed to introduce any measures to address the health risks and grave animal suffering involved. These are the findings of a fact finding mission that returned last night to the capital.
The Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) and Anti-Animal Sacrifice Alliance send a fact finding mission to Bara district earlier this week. ‘The festival organisers have no intention to compromise. Instead the sacrifice is promoted as a competition aiming at killing the highest number of animals in the span of only two days. Poor people are pressurized to invest their much needed resources. The only people who truly benefit are the organizers and business community,’ says Pramada Shah, President of AWNN.
According to the mission the organizers expect to earn 40 crore rupees (US$ 530.000) from tenders and fees. Bara VDCs are pressurized to provide one thousand animals each for the mass sacrifice. One thousand men have been given a license to kill animals; they receive a fee for each animal killed. In the meantime the price of animals in Bara and Parsa district increases steadily; families pay up to two months of salary to buy a goat. ‘The devotees are deeply superstitious and their sentiments are exploited by local religious and business leaders,’ says Shah.
The government has not taken any visible action to address the health risks and animal suffering, say the mission members. ‘In fact during the two days we were in Bara and Parsa all quarantine offices were closed,’ says Shah. The government has provided 5,2 lakh (US$ 70,000) to the organizers to build an enclosure for the 20.000 buffaloes that are scheduled to be killed. ‘We are greatly concerned about the killing of buffaloes. Until now these gentle animals were killed randomly by young men carrying khukuri knives who hack the animals to death. It is a barbaric custom of which even local residents disprove. It is most important that the government sets rules to ensure that the animals are killed as humanely as possible,’ says Shah.