PUNE, India––Gullible opponents of the Gadhi Mai mass sacrifice in Nepal have inadvertently helped the priests behind it to scam some of the poorest people in the world, a multi-year investigation by Beauty Without Cruelty India has discovered.
Held approximately every five years in Bariyarpur, Nepal, 26 kilometers from the border with Bihar state, India, the Gadhi Mai sacrificial festival at peak verifiably involved the decapitation of as many as 2,500 buffalo, plus several hundred smaller animals. About 750 buffalo, plus lesser numbers of smaller animals, were slaughtered at the 2014 Gadhi Mai festival, in honor of the local goddess Gadhi Mai.
But the Gadhi Mai festival has been touted by both the promoters and protesters as involving tens of thousands of buffalo and more than 100,000 animals altogether. The promoters benefit when protesters amplify claims that exaggerated numbers are killed.
Same animals sold several times
“Persistent inquiries revealed that the temple authorities take money from devotees for the animals promising to arrange for the sacrifice,” BWC-India found. “For an animal to be sacrificed, one devotee may give 1,000 rupees or less, whereas another may give 3,000 and yet another 5,000. Thus the temple records show scores more than are actually sacrificed. People who wish to sacrifice may not even see the animal…Once they have paid they think their reverence to the goddess is over.”
Bihar per capita income is currently about $133 per person per year. This is about three times the current $42 per capita income of rural residents of the Tarai, the region of Nepal bordering Bihar.
If Bihar and Bara rural people donate 2,000 buffalo to be sacrificed during the Gadhi Mai festival, a region in which healthy adult buffalo have a sale value of $500 apiece or more, they may be donating at least $1 million worth of animals. The economic impact on the region of killing 2,000 buffalo, at per capita income of $133/year, would be equal to the annual income of 7,519 people on the Bihar side of the border; 23,809 people on the Bara side.
If half of the economic value of the buffalo is wasted, as reports of many carcasses being buried in mass graves indicate, the wastage alone is equal to the annual incomes of up to 12,000 people.
Surplus from dairy industry
But the BWC-India investigators believe the buffalo sacrificed at Gadhi Mai festival are well short of reaching full adult value.
“Repeated close scrutiny of scores of photographs and videos revealed that almost all the buffaloes were male calves––obviously unwanted animals from the dairies of the region,” BWC-India reported. “Since it is not economical for milk producers to rear young male buffalo calves, they have no qualms whatsoever in selling them off for sacrifice.”
The BWC-India findings appear in “Unraveling Gadhi Mai,” the lead article in the Spring 2015 edition of the BWC-India magazine Compassionate Friend. The article is co-authored by Diana Ratnagar, managing trustee of BWC-India since 1974, and BWC-India trustee Rajeev Sethi.
Becoming aware of the Gadhi Mai sacrificial festival ahead of the 2009 event, and learning that most of the animals killed and human participants come from Bihar, India, BWC-India in 2009 “approached the Union Minister of Home Affairs to ban the movement of animals across the Indo-Nepal border. The government deployed an additional 4,500 Sashastra Seel Bal (SSB) officials at the border outposts,” Ratnagar and Sethi wrote.
“According to a senior SSB officer the number of animals sacrificed from India in 2009 was reduced by 75%. But, in view of only a few hundred being seized and maybe as many apprehended from crossing over, BWC felt it was an over-estimation,” Ratnagar and Sethi continued.
“Our meticulous investigations about the Gadhi Mai animal sacrifice threw up some significant information. But, it was only after the November 2014 sacrifice that we came to know we were not the only ones to have realized the 2009 figures had been highly exaggerated.”
“Each life is precious”
ANIMALS 24-7 in April, October, and November 2014 published investigative reports similarly concluding that both the Gadhi Mai priests and campaigners against the Gadhi Mai sacrifices were claiming figures inflated by more than a hundredfold. But until the ANIMALS 24-7 findings were combined with those of BWC-India, it was not clear that the origin of the exaggerations might have been the practice of Gadhi Mai priests selling the lives of the same animals to different devotees many times over.
The Spring 2015 edition of Compassionate Friend also includes a summary of the ANIMALS 24-7 findings.
Concluded Ratnagar and Sethi, “Knowing the number of animals killed is lesser than thought does not make it any the less barbaric, cruel, or gruesome. Every animal is an individual and each life is precious and counts.”
(See also: The toll from Gadhi Mai 2014: 750 buffalo sacrificed, 1,000 devotees in attendance; Ignoring Thanksgiving massacre, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle denounces animal sacrifice in Nepal, Supreme Court of India ruling covers tracks on Gadhi Mai sacrifice; Exposing the truth of the Gadhi Mai sacrificial slaughter; Books shed light on sacrifice in Nepal, and The origin of the Gadhi Mai sacrifice.)