CHENNAI: A team of 15 animal activists from Chennai have travelled 1,012 km, and are currently camped on the Indo-Nepal border with one mission: to prevent mass slaughter of animals as part of the Gadhimai festival. The festival involves the sacrifice of some 250,000 animals and is held once in five years.
Members of The Blue Cross of India told Express that this time around animal welfare organizations across the country have come together to stop animals from Indian being trafficked to Nepal for slaughter. Dawn Williams, who is a familiar face with animal rescues and snake capture in the city, is leading the team.
Letters have been sent. Meetings have been held, but to little avail. “And now all we can do is to curb the illegal trafficking of animals from India by standing vigil at the border,” Arpan Sharma of FIAPO says.
According to sources, 70 to 80 per cent of the animals that are slaughtered as part of the festival are illegally trafficked from India. With a small group of 25 (including those from other cities like Delhi and Hyderabad) holding watch day and night - members of the team say they are concentrating on areas such as Abapur, Sitamarhi, Motihari and Raxaul - where the likelihood of trafficking is higher. “All our efforts count now because as is with everything last minute, there will be a rush to bring in animals this week as the dates of slaughter are November 27 and 28,” states Chinny Krishna, vice chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India.
The names of the organizations participating in the cause include the Blue Cross of India, People for Animals (PFA), People for Cattle of India (PFCI), FIAPO, Humane Society International (HSI), Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) in collaboration with the Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN).
Sources holding fort at the border reveal, “There is definitely a decrease in numbers this year. Till date I’ve heard only 33 cattle have made it across the border.” A decade or more ago that number might have been in the thousands. With such a widespread collaboration of activists coming together for the first time, Krishna, one of the veterans in the field relates, “Not only am I proud, but touched. Beyond the dangers of this commitment, it’s also been a difficult and expensive ordeal. Industry professionals have given up their holiday leave to be part of this, and it’s certainly making a world of difference.”