Barbaric worlds biggest animal sacrifice begins as thousands are slaughtered for Nepal festival
More than a quarter of a million animals will be slaughtered in the name of a Hindu goddess this weekend as part of a two-day religious festival in Nepal.
That is despite the best efforts of animal rights campaigners who say the scenes are barbaric.
It is thought to be the worlds largest sacrificial slaughter of animals.
Millions of pilgrims have begun to flock to the temple of Gadhimai, the goddess of power in the village of Bariyarpur near the border with India.
In 2009, when the festival was last held, more than 250,000 buffaloes, birds and goats were beheaded using traditional curved swords.
The event begun on Friday at dawn with the ceremonial pancha bali, when a rat, goat, rooster, pig and pigeon were sacrificed.
Around 5,000 buffaloes were then beheaded after being held in an open-air pen.
Thousands more animals will be killed before the festival ends tomorrow, with their heads buried in a huge pit. Hides and skins will be sold to local traders.
Despite activists claiming that the widespread circulation of gruesome images via social media mean the event is becoming less popular, more devotees are expected to attend the festival this year than ever before.
As part of a campaign to stop the event, the animal rights campaigners PETA said: "This violent slaughter of animals takes place for superstitious reasons and is supposedly meant to be an offering in exchange for prosperity from the goddess.
"It is based on a 260-year-old ritual that a feudal lord dreamt up while imprisoned, but its high time for it to end."
More than 80 per cent of Nepals population are Hindu, but unlike their counterparts in India, they frequently sacrifice animals in religious festivals.
"It is a ritual connected with people’s faith," Yogendra Dulal, an assistant administrator of the Bara district, where the temple is located, told Reuters.
"We can’t hurt their sentiments and ban the practice."