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To analyse Gadhimai purely in terms of a religious motivation to please the voracious appetite of a carnivorous goddess is to miss the desperate economic realities that undergird India's agricultural economy and motivate the disposal of economically "unviable" animals. Religious superstition undoubtedly plays a major -- but not the only -- role in animal and human rights abuse.
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There is so much to be disheartened about in the animal activism space. Every day we see pictures of animal cruelty and it pains many of us so very deeply. In fact, in the lead up to Gadhimai last year, I spent many sleepless nights thinking about the torture that was awaiting the animals. Days like today are rare and definitely must be celebrated. More importantly they signal to us that nothing is impossible if all stakeholders come together and make a concerted effort.
The bloody trail of the world's largest animal sacrifice in Nepal goes back almost 300 years when an imprisoned villager named Bhagwan Choudhary struck a bargain with the local deity Gadhimai, offering her a sacrifice of five animals for his freedom. This grew into a month-long carnage ("festival") that occurred at an interval of five years, resulting in the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of animals. But now, the temple bells that toll in praise of the deity will no longer sound the death knell for animals.
During the slaughter, animals are subjected to watching their own kind being murdered in large numbers. The image of a calf trembling near his butchered mother's body is one I will never be able to forget.