Bariyapur (Nepal), Nov.4 (ANI): Plans by Hindu devotees to sacrifice over 500,000 animals during a two-day festival in Nepal this month has angered animal rights activists, who are demanding that the 300-year-old ritual to be banned.
Every five years the tiny village of Bariyapur near Nepal's southern border with India is swamped with blood as hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees flock to the local temple to take part in what is thought to be the world's biggest ritual slaughter.
This year, according to The Times, it is expected that about 500,000 animals, including about 25,000 buffaloes, will be offered to Gadhimai, a Hindu goddess.
Proceedings will begin with the sacrifice of two wild rats, a cockerel, a pig, a goat and a lamb.
Supporters of the Gadhimai Fair say there is no question of them departing from a centuries-old tradition.
Devotees can then bring their animals into the temple for ritual purification before taking them into the grounds where the beasts' throats are slit.
"The festival will lose its charm and become meaningless if we break with tradition," Mangal Chaudhary Tharu, the temple's head priest, was quoted, as saying.
An international group of activists that includes veteran French and Hollywood actress Brigitte Bardot and a 17-year-old Nepalese boy whose followers believe he is the reincarnation of Lord Buddha, is spearheading the campaign against the holding of the ritual.
"The campaign is producing results. Three villagers have already handed over three buffaloes to us which were intended for sacrifice at the fair, saying they have had a change of heart," a spokesman said.
The Kathmandu Post has also suggested that some devotees were having second thoughts.
Opponents of the ritual say that it will harm the reputation of Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries.
Pramada Shah, of Animal Welfare Network Nepal, said: "By perpetuating such a mass massacre in the name of religion, culture and tradition in the 21st century, we are projecting Nepal as barbaric."
Govinda Tandon, of the Stop Animal Sacrifices Alliance, said: "There are rivers of blood for months with carcasses lying everywhere. The grounds are dominated by vultures, while the stench makes life miserable for people living nearby. The only people who benefit are the skin traders who bid for the pelts."
Most observers think it is unlikely that the Nepalese Government, which has pledged about 60,000 dollars for the festival, will intercede. (ANI)