How come animal sacrifice of Nepal is barbaric but not the mass slaughter of turkeys in US during Thanksgiving?
Legend has it that goddess Gadhimai appeared to a prisoner in dreams and asked him to establish a temple to her. When he awoke, his shackles had fallen open and he was able to leave the prison and build the temple, where he sacrifices animals to give thanks to goddess. What is unknown is why in the world he sacrificed animals to present his thanks! Did goddess Gadhimai suggested him anything as such will never be known. What began as one man’s thanksgiving offer has turned into world’s largest abattoir today with tens of thousands of people flocking to Gadhimai temple in Bariyapur village of Nepal, 60 miles from Kathmandu.
Thanksgiving which is celebrated across United States and other western countries is inescapably visible and thoroughly documented orgy of turkey slaughter with its origin in 1621 – more than a century before the most often claimed date for the origin of the Gadhimai sacrifice. Moreover Thanksgiving has been celebrated annually since 1841, when Dr. Alexander Young successfully promoted it as US national holiday.
If it was Dr. Young in US who sowed the seeds for a mass slaughter there, back home in east, it was King Gyanendra, the last hereditary monarch of Nepal, 2001-2008 who promoted animal sacrifice as part of a last-ditch campaign to preserve his ruling authority. Government’s support was evident until last 2009 when it offered financial support of 4.5 million rupees (US $45000) to the temple. This time around after the cries of Animal Rights Activists, government has not offered any such help although has rendered no ear to ban on the practice as such also.
More than 80% of the 27 million population of Nepal constitutes Hindus. And unlike its counterpart India, Nepal has no laws that prohibit animal sacrifices. Weeklong festival which begins with the ‘panchabali’ (five-sacrifices) of a rat, a goat, a rooster, a pig and a pigeon will see around 500,000 animals sacrificed making it the world’s largest exercise of such kind if estimates are to be believed. In a weeklong festival which occurs every five years it’s just the two days which are devoted for animal sacrifice. If one figure is to be believed then in 2009 around 300,000 animals had their heads chopped off or throat slit. Killing in the name of religion is not new and certainly not confined to Nepal alone but the huge amount of ‘sacrifices’ certainly are unique. 5000 buffaloes will have their heads chopped under butchers’ traditional curved kukri knives. Thousands of goats and chickens will be killed making it the world’s biggest sacrifice of animals at any one site.
Worshipers believe sacrifice is meant to appease the Hindu goddess Gadhimai who many a localities believe to be the goddess of power. Devotees believe it will bring them luck and prosperity. Activists say it is cruel because animals suffer at the hands of untrained butchers, and that the piles of carcasses are a health hazard. Some argue that event traumatizes children which undoubtedly are true and any sane mind will agree how badly such scenes of killing affect a child’s psyche. Animal rights activists say it is mass cruelty while local residents say the stench of death leaves them struggling to breathe. Whatever that is, killing is inhumane no matter it is in the name of god or otherwise!
Given the fact that the big animals like a buffalo whose skin is traded among traders and contractors while heads are buried into open pits raises many doubts over the religious meaning one wish to extract from the same. Animal rights activists term it money-game which seems perfectly correct if one notes the condition of people who have to live with this stench for days to come. I believe if goddess can be appeased (?) through killing other children of hers (Hindu scriptures note that all creatures are children of almighty as whole) then serving them will appease her too.
Western media, different animal rights’ activists and many celebrities have been vocal to denunciate this festival calling it cruel, inhumane and all those words that degrade the whole ceremony as such. But nobody amongst these intellectuals speaks a word on Thanksgiving where million turkeys will be slaughtered in the name of festival.
Any cruelty to animals is worthy of denunciation. The larger and more conspicuous the cruelty, the more urgent the denunciation is. For record, Americans consume around 100 times more animals each and every day than the entire nation of Nepal. On Thanksgiving, in US alone they kill 45 million turkeys. But this does not stop amplifying false claims about a relatively small sacrificial event on the far side of the world, while maintaining a discreet silence about own annual Thanksgiving massacre.
“The sights and sounds are unimaginable,” wrote Jayasimha Nuggehalli, director of the Indian branch of the Humane Society International. “Pools of blood, animals bellowing in pain and panic, wide-eyed children looking on, devotees covered in animal blood, and some people even drinking blood from the headless but still warm carcasses.”
But defenders of the festival say foreign critics are guilty of double standards. “Only a vegetarian has the moral high ground to condemn the killings of any animal for religion, sport or food,” wrote journalist Deepak Adhikari in a recent article defending the festival. “For armchair western activists and local collaborators, the sacrifices represent their own festival of righteous indignation.”
In my own opinion slaughtering an animal in the name of religion is a crime made in the name of higher powers which even the gods will not permit. Just think for a moment, why would a goddess or god will be appeased seeing blood flowing everywhere, animals bellowing and children screaming seeing the scenes of sacrifice? Do you really believe a goddess of yours will be happy and will fulfil your wishes by seeing you slaughter another animal which the same deity has put to birth? I don’t believe so nor does my religion believe in such ‘sacrifices’! But then there are people who strongly believe in their rituals, their customs, the traditions which they have been practising from centuries; I don’t think they will leave them as such after seeing a bunch of activists with a placard or few articles and news coverage. It will take its own sweet time to understand the value of life not just of human but other beings too. Religion and age old customs are complexities of our societies which can’t be washed in an overnight.
But then, activists and other people have no right to selectively lambast a community or group of people and force them to stop something which is done by their own community in some other part of the world!