How this Inhumane Tradition Turned into a Celebration of Life

By UPLIFT on Saturday November 3rd, 2018

Image: Unknown

The Power of Compassion

For centuries the Gadhimai Festival in Nepal has seen temple grounds awash with the blood of animals slaughtered in the name of ‘tradition.’ This sacrifice has occurred every five years for the last 300 years and has been the largest sacrifice of animals globally. But now due to tireless advocacy and a change of heart, this age-old tradition has been stopped. The 2019 festival will instead be a momentous celebration of life.

The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life… For every life taken, our heart is heavy. The time has come to transform an old tradition.

Hundreds of thousands of water buffalo, goats, chickens and other animals will now be saved from a brutal death by bludgeoning or decapitation. This achievement is no small feat. It is the result of the extraordinary efforts of the Humane Society International/India, Animal Welfare Network Nepal, and countless animal protection groups and individuals around the world who have helped inspire this victory of kindness over cruelty. The hard work is not over yet—with the big task still ahead of educating devotees of this significant change in the time leading up to the next festival.

Care for animalsWe are creating a more compassionate future for the animals of the world. Image: Steve McCurry

And, of course, greatest credit must go to the members of The Gadhimai Temple Trust itself, who recognised that the power to change the trajectory of our common humanity is in our hands.

A Kinder Approach

The incredible news exploded on social media, where a long-running campaign has been waged on behalf of the victims of the festival. It is yet another signpost that the pathway our species is paving for itself is slowly but surely bending towards a more compassionate future, championed by caring people in every country of the world. That is to say, we are getting kinder.

Worldwide, never before has there been such a rate of positive change—in public policy; in commerce; in public awareness and advocacy. And never before have the animals of this world needed it so much. We have, after all, inherited an age where the majority of animals in human ‘care’ are valued not as living, thinking beings, but as commodities—spending their entire lives confined in factory farms. Nothing short of a profound global shift in thought is needed to awaken our shared responsibility toward our fellow species and break this global cycle of suffering.

A 3-year-old Nepalese boy saves a ‘sacrificial goat’ from slaughter

In the Name of Tradition

Some of the most entrenched cruelty in this world has long been defended in the name of ‘tradition.’ The Festival of Sacrifice is responsible for untold suffering of cattle, sheep, and goats—millions of whom have been sold for profit through Australia’s live export trade; closer to home, in the name of Christmas, highly intelligent pigs and turkeys not only experience the terror of slaughter but entire lifetimes of suffering in factory farms; and sporting events such as bullfights and rodeos still present cruelty as ‘entertainment.’

When kind people seek to transform cruel traditions, they don’t risk losing their identity. They strengthen it by demonstrating that culture cannot be measured by the repetition of practices frozen in time by values of the past. For this, the tradition of the Gadhimai festival will become all the stronger.

In another Nepalese tradition, there is a calendar day called ‘Kukur Tihar’ dedicated entirely to thanking dogs for their friendship and loyalty.

Celebration of dogsKukur Tihar is a celebration for dogs to thank them for their friendship and loyalty.
It takes compassion and courage to rise above cruelty and recognise that the ways of doing things we inherit from the past do not define us; to recognise that those we share this world with also share our desire to avoid suffering. Whether in our temples or in our homes, we can all choose to live without killing.

The roots of cruelty are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come. – Albert Schweitzer

Compassion is fundamental to all human cultures—and when it shines through, traditions steeped in cruelty can be transformed. On scales grand and small, if we want to live in a kinder world, we all have a role to play.

And if the world’s largest animal sacrifice event can be transformed into a ‘celebration of life,’ then there is reason to be infinitely hopeful about the future.

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.



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