Nepal’s mass animal slaughter begins amid criticism

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Tens of thousands of people from India and Nepal congregated on a Hindu temple in southern Nepal on Tuesday to slaughter thousands of animals as part of a religious ritual held every five years.

After a ceremonial sacrifice of five animals -- buffalo, goat, chicken, pig and rat -- at Gadhimai Temple along the India-Nepal border, the Hindu devotees sacrificed their animals to appease the goddess of power, Kali.

Animal rights activists, who fed some of the animals, were up in arms against the slaughter of animals, but the temple authorities have continued to observe it saying it's part of a centuries-old tradition.

An estimated 35,000 buffalos, mostly smuggled from India, were slated for the killings, according to Humane International Society, an animal projection organization.

"Such scenes of animal suffering are a stain on Nepal's international reputation. There is no justification for this mass killing, and it is truly heart breaking to witness, especially knowing that the Temple could and should have kept its promise to help these animals," Tanuja Basnet, the organization's director in Nepal, said in a statement on Tuesday.

In 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned animals from crossing the border into Nepal. The Supreme Court of Nepal has also directed government agencies to reduce animal sacrifice at the festival.

But the organizers say they cannot stop pilgrims from offering their animals to the goddess.

"Our job is to organize the festival. Devotees from Nepal and India bring their offerings and sacrifice their animals. They believe that if they do so, the goddess will fulfill their wishes," said Ram Chandra Shah, chair of the festival organizing committee.

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