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Animal sacrifice banned in Nepal festival

New Delhi: In a move that will spare the lives of millions of animals, animal sacrifice has been banned indefinitely at Nepal’s Gadhimai festival, a rights group said on Tuesday.

The Gadhimai festival in Bara district, about 160 km from Kathmandu, witnesses the world’s biggest animal sacrifice event held every five years — for the last 300 years.

The decision announced by the Nepal temple trust follows rigorous negotiations and campaigning by Animal Welfare Network Nepal and Humane Society International of India (HSI), the latter said in a statement.

Gauri Maulekhi of HSI said: “This is a tremendous victory for compassion that will save the lives of countless animals… We commend the temple committee but acknowledge that a huge task lies ahead of us in educating the public so that they are fully aware.”

HSI said it will spend the next three-and-a-half years till the next Gadhimai, educating devotees in Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal on the temple trusts’ decision not to sacrifice animals.

“Animal sacrifice is a highly regressive practice and no nation in the modern world should entertain it,” Maulekhi said in a statement.

Activists had petitioned India’s Supreme Court against the movement of animals from India to the Gadhimai festival.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court issued directions to states to set up mechanisms to prevent animals from being taken to Gadhimai in future and create awareness against animal sacrifice.

Gadhimai Temple Trust chairman Ram Chandra Shah said: “For generations, pilgrims have sacrificed animals to goddess Gadhimai, in the hope of a better life.

“For every life taken, our heart is heavy. The time has come to transform an old tradition. The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration.”

According to HSI, it is estimated that more than 500,000 buffaloes, goats, chicken and other animals were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009. In 2014 the numbers had reduced by 70 percent.