HSUS & HSI victory claims omit mention of those who won the fight
KATHMANDU, Nepal––Under pressure of a Supreme Court of Nepal injunction won on November 24, 2014 by the Nepal Animal Welfare & Research Center, “We have decided to completely stop the practice of animal sacrifice,” Gadhi Mai Temple Trust secretary Motilal Prasad on July 28, 2015 told the Himalayan Times.
The announcement apparently means the end of mass sacrifices held every five years at Bariyarpur, in western Nepal near the Indian border, which have become increasingly controversial since first emerging into media view in 1999.
Boosted by King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Dev during his brief reign, 2001-2006, the sacrifices in honor of the local goddess Gadhi Mai are commonly said to have originated in the 18th century, but there appears to be no unequivocal written documentation of any such event before 1999.
As many as 2,500 buffalo and hundreds of goats and chickens were killed at the 2004, 2009, and 2014 Gadhi Mai sacrifices, according to analysis of the available photographic documentation. Both the local priests promoting the sacrifices and animal advocacy organizations campaigning against them have exaggerated the verifiable toll of animal lives by as much as a hundredfold.
Investigative work by Beauty Without Cruelty-India indicates that the inflated claims about the numbers of animals sacrificed probably started with priests selling each animal multiple times to absentee sponsors. Activists then swallowed the inflated claims whole, and exaggerated them further to try to drum up global support for protest.
The back story
The decision to halt animal sacrifices in honor of Gadhi Mai was motivated, Prasad told Agence France-Presse, because “I realised that animals are so much like us — they have the same organs as us… and feel the same pain we do.”
The back story, however, is that while the local organization Animal Nepal rallied international opposition to the Gadhi Mai sacrifices, Nepal Animal Welfare & Research Center founder Uttam Dahal quietly took a less flamboyant and more strategic approach.
Realizing that many aspects of the sacrificial slaughter would be in violation of the Nepal Animal Health & Livestock Services Act, the Nepal Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Act, and the Nepal Environment Protection Act, Dahal won an order from Justice Govinda Kumar Upadhayay of the Nepal Supreme Court which, if strictly enforced, might have stopped the 2014 Gadhi Mai mass sacrifice entirely.
“Enforce the law”
The official English translation of the order asked “the local bodies, organizations and associations, people, health administration, and police” to manage the Gadhi Mai festival “keeping these laws in mind.”
In other words, the responsible persons were asked to enforce the Nepal Animal Health & Livestock Services Act, the Nepal Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Act, and the Nepal Environment Protection Act.
They did not, but ignoring the law increased their vulnerability to prosecution. After witnessing and videographically documenting many violations of the three applicable laws , Dahal began the slow process of seeking further court orders to enforce the November 24, 2014 order.
Court order could stop other sacrifices
If upheld as a precedent, the November 24, 2014 order has potential not only to stop future mass sacrifices at Gadhi Mai festivals, but also to impose a variety of restraints on other sacrificial events, especially those occurring outside of established temples and involving sale or other distribution of meat from sacrificed animals.
Said Gadhi Mai Temple Trust chair Ram Chandra Shah in a formal statement to media, “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 generations,” Ram Chandra Shah said, “pilgrims have sacrificed animals to the goddess Gadhi Mai, in the hope of a better life. For every life taken, our heart is heavy. The time has come to transform an old tradition. The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration.
“Our concern has been this: how do we convince the people, so desperate for the favor of Gadhi Mai, that there is another way? How do we bring them on our journey? Thankfully,” Ram Chandra Shah continued, hinting at the Gadhi Mai sacrifices having perhaps ended in part through the receipt of some sort of material aid, “the dedicated efforts of the Animal Welfare Network Nepal and Humane Society International/India have shown us the path and provided the motivation to make this transformation a reality.”
“True smile emotion”
Responded Uttam Dahal, “Documentation is still to come. But we hope this news will be published with documents soon. In reference to the news, it is true smile emotion.”
The roles of Uttam Dahal, the Nepal Animal Welfare & Research Center, and the Supreme Court of Nepal were neither acknowledged nor even mentioned in declarations of victory from the Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society International vice president Andrew Rowan, and other organizations outside Nepal.
Supreme Court of India
HSUS and HIS, the international arm of HSUS, preferred to credit the influence of an order from a two-justice panel of the Supreme Court of India, issued on October 17, 2014, which reinforced previous injunctions against cattle smuggling from India to Nepal.
Wrote Indian Supreme Court Justices Jagdish Singh Khehar and Arun Mishera, “We direct the respondents to ensure that no live cattle and buffalos are exported out of India into Nepal, but under license.”
The licensing requirement exempted the routine slaughter traffic to Kathmandu, which is mostly conducted under license.
The Union of India and the four states bordering Nepal––Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal––were already enjoined to prevent cattle smuggling.
The major significance of the Khehar/Mishera injunction therefore was to hand the government of India and the animal advocacy groups campaigning against the Gadhi Mai sacrifices a face-saving way to declare victory when the festival turned out to be demonstrably magnitudes of order smaller than the previous hyperbolic claims from both the priests promoting it and the activists trying to stop it
Said HIS/India consultant and People for Animals trustee Gauri Maulekhi, who obtained the Supreme Court of India order, “We commend the temple committee but acknowledge that a huge task lies ahead of us in educating the public so that they are fully aware. HSI/India will now spend the next three and a half years till the next Gadhi Mai [festival date] educating devotees in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal on the temple trusts’ decision not to sacrifice animals. Animal sacrifice is a highly regressive practice and no nation in the modern world should entertain it.”
Wayne Pacelle’s statement
Proclaimed HSUS president Pacelle, in a statement echoed by Rowan in at times almost identical language, “Working with Animal Welfare Network Nepal and People for Animals in India, HSI adopted a multi-pronged approach to end the animal sacrifice. Since an estimated 70% of the animals killed at Gadhimai are transported across the border from neighboring India into Nepal, HSI successfully obtained an order from the Supreme Court of India against transporting the animals, and then worked with India’s Ministry of Home Affairs to issue a directive to the Indo-Nepal border forces to stop and confiscate the animals. This resulted in more than 100 arrests and more than 2,500 animals being seized on their way to the festival,” which would have been about 1% of the numbers of animals that HSUS, HIS, and other Gadhi Mai sacrifice opponents had claimed were killed in 2009.
“The Supreme Court also insisted on the establishment of SPCAs in all districts in the three Indian states adjoining Nepal, to tackle animal cruelty,” Pacelle added.
“The HSI/India team and its partners met with temple officials and the Nepal government,” Pacelle continued, “including Nepalese president Ram Baran Yadav and prime minister Sushil Koirala, and members of [the Nepalese] Parliament.
“All of those efforts have been rewarded with this startlingly great news,” Pacelle said, “and it will inevitably reverberate and bring pressure upon organizers of smaller spectacles involving animal sacrifice. Earlier this year, following the global outrage stemming from the Gadhimai massacre, the temple committee decided not to sacrifice any animals during the harvest festival (Sankranti), either.”
(See also Did the Gadhi Mai Temple Trust renege on deal to quit animal sacrifice?, No karmic bridge links the Nepal earthquake to Gadhi Mai; Beauty Without Cruelty-India exposes Gadhi Mai scam; 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.)