The killings went ahead this year despite outrage and outcry in Nepal and worldwide. Nepal’s Supreme Court had in 2016 directed authorities not to allow the slaughter. India’s apex court also ruled in 2014 against transporting animals across the border to be killed at Gadimai.
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The court decisions and strong lobbying by activists on both sides of the border reduced the number of sacrifices this year. Volunteers from Friends of Animal Welfare Nepal (FAWN) patrolled the Nepal-India border in the weeks before the festival, and activists met district officials to ask them to heed the Supreme Court ruling.
“Despite our effort to make this festival bloodless, the sacrifices went ahead with blind faith in the tradition,” said FAWN’s Sneha Shrestha, whose team was feeding and tending to the animals till the end. “We did everything to save the innocent lives. The temple committee and the CDO did not keep their promise.”
Bara’s Chief District Officer Phanindra Mani Pokhrel said last week his administration was trying its best to discourage the killings. Temple head priest Mangal Chaudhary told Nepali Times: “You can just sacrifice a coconut, or offer flowers and sweets to the goddess.”
But neither the government nor the temple appeared willing, or able, to stand up to public pressure for the mass killings. Unlike religious sacrifice, the animals at Gadimai are not slaughtered to be eaten later, but left to rot.