Thursday, 26 November, 2020
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OPINION

End Animal Sacrifice



Birendra Madai

The 15-day Dashain festival is now going to be over. This is nation's most cherished Hindu festival, which is marked with families visiting temples, hosting feasts and children flying kites. As per the census report of 2011, more than 80 per cent of the total populations follow Hinduism. For Hindu devotees, Dashain symbolises the victory of good over evil.
Every year, tens of thousands of goats, buffaloes, chickens and ducks are sacrificed to appease gods and goddesses as a part of religious practice that dates back to times immemorial. Animal rights activists, in recent years, have been making uproar against the animal sacrifice. However, religious pundits explain that sacrifices are a symbol of devotion and respect to the Goddess Durga (in her various incarnations such as Kali, Bhawani, etc.) who confronted and defeated the Mahisasur, a buffalo demon that had disturbed the peace of all three Loks.
A legend goes that in ancient times human sacrifice was used as an ultimate sacrifice which would pave the way for attaining true salvation (moksha). With the passage of time, people realised that human life was too precious to be left to religious symbolism and thus replaced it with animal sacrifice. With this, we can be optimistic that continuously evolving social consciousness may lead to abandonment of animal sacrifice one day.
With measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic in action like closure of all temples and shrines since March 24, this time the scenario is quite different. We can, thus, hope that a lesser number of cattle get slaughtered during this Dashain. As animal rights activists spread aura of cognizance in the major cities, including the capital, in later years, more voices have emerged seeking another more humane way of vanquishing demons like with the sacrifice of various vegetables and coconut.
Back in 2009, after the Gadhimai festival, a group of activists organised a mass demonstration condemning the slaughtering of an estimated 250,000 animals in a single temple located in the southern district of Bara. The same incident ignited a rage from a number of organisations under the 'Stop Animal Sacrifice Initiative' decrying the mass killing with slogans like 'stop sacrificing animals in the name of God' and 'celebrate Dashain without blood and meat.'
The abolitionist organisations are persuading the devotees to sacrifice squash or coconut in place of innocent domestic cattle, hens or pigeons through online campaigning through circulating brochures and leaflets. In some cases, they are hanging banners and distributing pamphlets while at the same time communicating with devotees anticipating them to take the animals they purchased for sacrifice instead to animal sanctuaries.
Many livestock farmers, on the other hand, oppose the activists as their livelihood depends upon the sale of animals around the festivals. In Nepal, people often link animal sacrifice to our age-old religious belief. However, animal sacrifices are not unique to any one religion. It is a universal theme driven by our innate animal instinct, says Webb Keane, Professor of Anthropology at University of Michigan.
In Islam, the animal sacrifice is called Qurbani while in Christianity, it is termed as sacrificial lamb and in Hinduism, it is named Bali. Anyway, it possesses one or other form of sacrifice. Our ancient culture has always kept our head high by adopting continuous reforms with passage of time. It is the need of hour to embrace progress giving up animal sacrifice and gender bias which are no longer relevant in today's world.

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