by Jim Myers
Animal Aid Charitable Trust, Udaipur, Rajasthan
After spending days and nights traveling in the remote district of Bihar adjacent to Nepal to help intercept the animal traffic to the 2014 Gadhi Mai sacrificial festival, two conditions became apparent that are worth noting and hopefully sharing with the relevant authorities in Bihar state and the Indian national government.
One, the Gadhi Mai Festival is set in a region that is extremely poor, and two, India’s long open border with Nepal inspires lawless behavior.
Many of the participants in the Gadhi Mai festival come from one of India’s poorest regions in Bihar. These are not people who send their children to school. They are illiterate people who can barely scrape together enough to feed themselves as they work their fields or engage in the low-end trades. It is not surprising when you witness their lives that they are attracted to sacrificial practices, a kind of spiritual lottery for the poor who don’t have much more than their prayers. The poor who use food money in the West to purchase lottery tickets are not far from the poor of Bihar, people who might think that the animal they bring to sacrifice will feed the goddess and give the miracle jackpot of crops that ripen or the recovery of a family member with a chronic illness.
The motive for change has to lie in increased economic and educational opportunities for India’s poor in this region. If deep and permanent solutions are to be put in place then economic and educational programs must come to the aid of this poor region. Bihar has banned the public sacrifice of animals but not private sacrifice. Educational programs will gradually help to eliminate private practices, but one only has to think of Bakri Id to understand how little interest India has in curtailing private religious practices that allow for the sacrifice of animals.
Gadhi Mai, as with all deeply held traditions, is a state of mind, one that will not be changed ultimately by Supreme Court injunctions, police or custom officers, but by religious leaders and educators that give the participants, the poor of Bihar, other choices, other hopes.
The Open Border with Nepal
The problems of an open border between Nepal and India cannot be properly understood until days are spent among the dirt roads and foot paths that wind their way through poor villages with no indication as to the exact location of the Nepal and Indian border. Several times we asked local farmers or people on the road the whereabouts of Nepal and they would either say they didn’t know or point to a cluster of trees or the end of a plowed field. One then realizes that there is a real border with customs officials for all four wheel vehicles, especially big trucks in a border town like Raxaul, but for pack animals and foot traffic no border exists. It is illegal for foreign persons to cross the border, but there are no restrictions on Nepal and India citizens.If we expand our thinking and consider also the loss to India that comes from an open border with Nepal, like the trade in human beings, weapons, drugs and terrorist infiltrations I am sure that losses incurred by India for not having a protected border could have paid many times over for the construction of a walled or fenced border.
I don’t like borders. Borders often restrict what I think are the democratic rights of animals, people, rivers, and plants, to participate fully on the planet which is rightfully theirs, but, and this is an important but, if your neighbors only rob you blind through your good will to be open then a secure border might need to be considered.
A larger view of Gadhi Mai
My personal views about animals cover all animal welfare perspectives but go further, to call for the right of all animals to be as free as possible from human determinations: like the time of their dying, and the uses they are put to by way of labor, show and trades that use their body parts.
I appreciate the welfare interest in exposing the pain and suffering of animals that are slaughtered/sacrificed in the Gadhi Mai festival. It is awful and should be stopped. My time on the border of India and Nepal caused me to stop several times and reflect, if you will, on the higher Gadhi Mai, the Gadhi Mai of the factory farms of America, Europe, India, and the rest of the world.
These institutionalized torture chambers for animals are all legal in their countries, all hidden from the view of their respective populations, and all of them participate in the higher outrage of moral indifference. I thought at times while I searched in loaded wagons for a goat or birds in cages that these simple people are a least in a semi-conscious relationship with the animals they carry, they believe that the animals will suffer, that they MUST suffer, if the troubles of their poor lives are to be improved.
But, the recipients of the Higher Gadhi Mai, the people who only meet the animal wrapped in a package, are not connected with the suffering and death of the animal…I paused several times on those lonely roads to wonder as I do now as to which Gadhi Mai represents the higher civilization. The smaller Gadhi Mai in Nepal has at least the transparency of being what it says it is…a place that is a blood sacrifice for a pagan religion. The Higher Gadhi Mai is in a real sense unconscious, sleepwalking through the bones and blood of innocent animals…and for what? For a food source that is often not even healthy.
The real weapons of mass destruction are a knife and a fork in the hands of “civilized” people, with the best possible breeding, from Harvard, Oxford and Advanced Institutes in Delhi who sit down three times a day to discuss and celebrate their lives over the blood and bones of innocent animals…without a care on their minds.
So, I’m all for attacking Gadhi Mai in Nepal so long as it’s also a pointer to Bakri Id, the shank of a goat’s bone at the Jewish Passover, the lamb served at Easter, and the chicken served on Air India flights to first class passengers.
A prayer: I hope we can all, each in our own ways, help ourselves and the unconscious consumers of animals how to wake from the horror of this nightmare.
(See also: The toll from Gadhi Mai 2014: 750 buffalo sacrificed, 1,000 devotees in attendance, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-WW; Ignoring Thanksgiving massacre, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle denounces animal sacrifice in Nepal, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-WF; 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/)