How does one prevent people from accidentally falling into a pond and drowning?
If you happen to be residents of Khokana village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, you throw a baby she-goat into the pond and drown it. That’s what villagers did last Thursday as part of an annual festival.
“No one is sure when the ritual started. People say it began after an Indian saint advised that such a sacrifice would stop people from drowning,” says Mahesh Sharma of Animal Welfare Network Nepal.
Once the goat is thrown into the pond, young men from nine wards in the village attack it and bite the animal to death. Whoever is able to take the dead goat away is declared a winner. The local VDC sponsors the event.
“The sacrifice has taken form of a ‘blood sport’ in the past few years. But this year the animal was just drowned and not bitten to death. People who gathered to see a more violent end were disappointed,” says Sharma.
Khokana is just one village. Animal sacrifice as part of religion or tradition is common practice across Nepal. According to AWNN estimates over 2.5 million animals are killed in such manner every year.
I saw it first hand at Gadhimai in November last year where 20,000 buffaloes and nearly 500,000 other animals and birds were sacrificed in two days as part of festival held every five years to appease a deity.
Sherpas in Myagdi district in western Nepal drink yak’s blood by cutting a vein in the animal’s neck. They believe that such a practice of drinking blood from a live animal will protect them from diseases.
Animal rights activists say that lack of awareness and laws to protect domestic and work animals are reasons why such practices thrive. Efforts are on to draft an animal welfare act.