Sacrificed buffaloes lie on the ground of an enclosed compound during the Gadhimai Mela Festival in Bariyapur, Nepal on Nov 28, 2014. It's estimated that more than 500,000 animals including buffaloes, goats and chicken were killed during the festival in 2014, making it the biggest ritual killing of animals in the world. Photo: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar
A temple in southern Nepal known for the mass slaughter of animals at a festival there every five years has indefinitely banned animal sacrifice, according to India's Humane Society International.
The twice-in-a-decade ritual of slaughtering tens of thousands of animals at the Gadhimai temple, located in Bariyapur, about 145km south of Kathmandu, has drawn international condemnation from animal rights groups in recent years.
"Obviously we are very happy with this decision," says Manoj Gautam of Animal Welfare Network Nepal, which has been campaigning for an end to the slaughter. "But it doesn't mean our job is done ... We need public support and participation to make sure this ban is upheld," he said. Temple officials were not immediately available for comment.
Millions of pilgrims from India and Nepal regularly attend the festival, where animals have been sacrificed in past years to Gadhimai, a goddess of power. According to the Humane Society International, an estimated 500,000 buffaloes, goats, chickens and other animals were killed at the temple in 2009.
Those numbers dropped during the next festival in 2014, after India's Supreme Court issued an order prohibiting animals from being taken across the border to Nepal for sacrifice at the festival, says campaigners.
Animal rights groups plan to spend the remaining three-plus years before the next festival working in the Indian states that border Nepal to spread news of the temple's decision.
Nepal's lawmakers are currently in the late stages of preparing a constitution for the country. A Hindu kingdom until 2008, there is fierce debate over whether Nepal should be declared a secular state in the new document. "There will definitely be individuals who will not appreciate this decision," says Gautam. "But I don't see any groups or organisations coming out against this right now." – Reuters/Ross Adkin
This video of the last Gadhimai Mela Festival in Nepal contains scenes of animal killing that may be disturbing to some viewers.
Watch with discretion.