Editorial by Merritt Clifton
Denouncing one of the largest animal sacrifices in the world at Thanksgiving 2014 would have been thoroughly appropriate for Humane Society of the U.S. and Humane Society International president Wayne Pacelle––if only he had done it.
Any cruelty to animals is worthy of denunciation. The larger and more conspicuous the cruelty, the more urgent the denunciation is.
But Pacelle said nothing. And he could not claim to have been unaware of it.
“There is no American holiday more associated with the use of an animal than Thanksgiving,” blogged Pacelle on November 22, 2007,” in one of only two substantial commentaries he has offered on the occasion in more than a decade as head of the world’s largest humane organization.
“In the United States, we consume 45 million turkeys on this holiday alone,” Pacelle continued then, “and the increasingly distressing part of the equation for me is that the vast majority of these turkeys are raised in intensive confinement on factory farms. More so, the USDA excludes turkeys and all other birds slaughtered for human consumption in the United States from legal protections under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act…
“On Thanksgiving, we should not forget their circumstance”
“The domesticated turkeys raised now on factory farms bear scant resemblance to the wild turkeys inhabiting our forests,” Pacelle observed. “The wild birds are alert, fast-flying, and roost in trees. The domesticated turkeys are grossly obese, cannot run or fly, and cannot even reproduce on their own. Yet for all of our redesigns of their bodies, we have not been able to take away their ability to suffer. On Thanksgiving, we should not forget their circumstance.”
Pacelle, in his second notice of Thanksgiving, posted in 2012, repeated almost identical language.
At Thanksgiving 2014, however, Pacelle devoted his blog to a hyperbolic denunciation of the Gadhi Mai sacrificial festival in Nepal––a denunciation which would have been a breathtaking exercise in unmitigated hypocrisy even if any of the grossly exaggerated numbers Pacelle cited for it could be substantiated.
Turkeys are beheaded too
Pacelle righteously deplored that “nearly half a million animals could be hacked to death” at the Gadhi Mai festival this year. “Hacked to death” is an apt description of slaughter by decapitation––and this is exactly the fate of the 45 million turkeys on U.S. tables this very day, except that the turkeys are also shackled and hoisted upside down before their heads are hacked off.
Describing the Gadhi Mai scene, Pacelle extensively quoted a recent op-ed column for The Guardian authored by Humane Society International India representative N.G. Jayasimha, who wrote it before ever venturing within several hundred miles of the Gadhi Mai festival. In other words, Pacelle recycled second-hand campaign literature as his source.Jayasimha and several dozen other animal advocates are in the vicinity now, trying to interdict the ongoing illegal export of buffalo and other livestock from India to Nepal via routes other than the 23 border crossings traversed by trucks with export permits each and every day, transporting most of the meat consumed in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.
As of November 21, 2014, volunteer Arun Prasanna posted to Facebook, “The temple has thus far amassed 33 cattle, the borders are sealed, there are reports that close to 2,000 cattle were seized at the borders. This year the numbers are definitely coming down.”
Two buffalo along a roadside
Pacelle claimed that “114 arrests have been made and more than 2,500 animals have been seized at the border, on their way to the festival,” but the HSI team at the scene apparently could send to Pacelle no visual documentation of the alleged marshaling of thousands of animals for slaughter more persuasive or dramatic than a photo of 40 buffalo grazing in a paddock and two buffalo being herded along a roadside––a scene which might be observed almost anywhere at almost any time in either Nepal or India.
In truth, as ANIMALS 24-7 has extensively researched [see links below], no first hand documentation exists at this writing to demonstrate that more animals are killed at the Gadhi Mai festival, held once in five years, than are slaughtered in much the same manner at any of dozens of U.S. slaughterhouses each and every day, every working day of the year and sometimes on Sundays and holidays––except that the U.S. bloodbath goes on behind closed doors.
Further, no first hand documentation exists to demonstrate that the Gadhi Mai festival is any larger or bloodier than dozens of local sacrificial festivals held in India each year at Dasain, a holiday celebrated only a few weeks later. The only significant difference, if there is any, is that the animals killed at Dasain are mostly birds, and some goats, not buffalo.
Video from the 2009 Gadhi Mai festival shows circa 1,000 buffalo and fewer than a dozen other animals either being slaughtered or awaiting slaughter. Even if the video showed only half the buffalo at the scene, which is unlikely, since it pans over the entire sacrificial area to show open fields beyond, the total documented bovine slaughter in 2009 would have been half the total killed here in the U.S. by Tyson Inc. alone in an average day.
Neither does any documentation exist to support claims Pacelle echoed that the Gadhi Mai festival was of any noteworthy size at all before the short and bloody regime of King Gyanendra, the last hereditary monarch of Nepal, 2001-2008. Gyanendra promoted animal sacrifice as part of a last-ditch campaign to preserve his ruling authority.
Thanksgiving is bigger––and older
Thanksgiving, by contrast, has been an inescapably visible and thoroughly documented orgy of turkey slaughter with origins in 1621––more than a century before the most often claimed date for the origin of the Gadhi Mai sacrifices. Further, Thanksgiving has been verifiably celebrated annually since 1841, when Dr. Alexander Young successfully promoted it as a U.S. national holiday.
Focusing on the Gadhi Mai sacrifices instead of Thanksgiving of course minimized the risk of backlash to Pacelle from HSUS/HSI donors who like to eat a Thanksgiving turkey before writing fat checks on Giving Tuesday, a few days later.
And grotesquely inflating the numbers of animals sacrificed at the Gadhi Mai festival sets HSUS/HSI and other advocacy organizations up to declare a great “victory” in the purported reductions of animals killed that can be claimed when verifiable numbers become available.
Any cruelty must be denounced
Again, any cruelty to animals is worthy of denunciation. The larger and more conspicuous the cruelty, the more urgent the denunciation is. But Americans will at Thanksgiving 2014 consume more animals in a day than the entire nation of Nepal consumes and kills in a year. And almost all the animals consumed in the U.S. will have been more cruelly raised, transported, and slaughtered than most of those killed in Nepal, where factory farming has yet to take hold and most slaughter is still done in connection with ritual sacrifice.
Indeed, Americans consume around 100 times more animals each and every day than the entire nation of Nepal. To give credit where credit is due, Pacelle has said and done more in response to U.S. meat consumption and all of the cruelty associated with it than all of the other presidents of the largest U.S. humane organizations combined since 1868, when Henry Bergh founded the American SPCA. But this does not excuse amplifying false claims about a relatively small sacrificial event on the far side of the world, while maintaining a politically discreet silence about our own annual Thanksgiving massacre.
(See also: Supreme Court of India ruling covers tracks on Gadhi Mai sacrifice, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-R2; Exposing the truth of the Gadhi Mai sacrificial slaughter, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-6J; Books shed light on sacrifice in Nepal, http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/03/12/books-shed-light-on-sacrifice-in-nepal/ and The origin of the Gadhi Mai sacrifice, http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/03/12/427/
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