Ritual Murder

In India since 1919 the Livestock Census has been conducted every 5 years. It covers buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, camels, mithun and yak. The 2012 census put the total livestock population at 512.05 million (a fall of 3.33% over the previous 2007 census). The number of mules rose 43.34% and the second highest rise was that of poultry by 12.39% which is sad because the birds are bred and raised to be killed.


One of the most tragic realities in Indian society today is the existence of rituals involving the murder of living creatures, a good part of our country’s livestock, in the name of religion, and it does not happen only among the tribal folk.

Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Puducherry are the only
governments with a law against the sacrifice of animals and birds.

Animal Sacrifices

The ritual slaying of a goat on the occasion of Bakri Idd is a socially imposed custom on every Muslim family. Some pay lakhs of rupees for particular goats like the chand ka bakra ones which have white shaped markings resembling the moon. In addition to specially fed and fattened goats, camels also get sacrificed.

It is a common practice for animals like sheep, goats and male buffaloes to be beheaded ritually on auspicious days in and around temples all over India. The temples of the goddess Kali are the slaughter grounds for, again, goats.

The Christian community of coastal India have similar customs to mark their religious occasions.

BWC strongly objects to any killing of animals in the name of any religion. It feels that we exhibit hypocrisy by demanding human rights for ourselves but denying the elementary right of life to our fellow creatures. Taking the life of a defenceless innocent animal and calling it a sacrifice is surely a demonstration of much undeveloped moral values. Do people really think that their kind and compassionate God is pleased when life in taken in His name and they feast upon the flesh of the killed animal? (If hundreds of animals have been slaughtered and there is an excess of flesh it is thrown away.)

Every Life Counts

Such brutal killing of animals and birds can only be stopped by enlightened religious leaders as was done in 1989 when BWC persuaded the Catholic Church to stop the age old barbaric custom of teenage boys biting a piglet to death at Terekol, Goa in celebration of St John’s Baptism.

BWC was shocked beyond words to know in 2006 that animal sacrifices in the name of religion took place in metropolitan Mumbai temples: one the Gaodevi Mandir on Amboli Hill and the other a similar Gaodevi temple on Gilbert Hill (Gaodevi is a Marathi term connoting a “village temple” harking back to the time when Mumbai was a congregation of small villages each with a temple of its own) both in isolated locations. As the only authorised place of slaughter in Mumbai is Deonar abattoir, BWC together with local animal welfare organisation representatives approached the Police who agreed to help. Accordingly, on the eve of Dassera at 11.30 pm when 10-12 sheep and goats were found tied outside the Gaodevi Mandir on Amboli Hill along with some cocks awaiting animal sacrifice, the Oshiwara police were informed. At 1 am the inspector on night duty along with his men went to the temple. He reported that to his own surprise, he was able to convince the people at the temple without difficulty, not to engage in animal slaughter there; whether or not the animals were sacrificed elsewhere, we do not know, but hope not.

At the Mari Jathra and Thingala Jathra in villages around Tumkur, Karnataka, sacrificial beheading of male buffaloes to appease goddess Maramma takes place at annual fairs. In 1991, Beauty Without Cruelty along with Akhil Karnataka Prani Daya Sangh managed to foil the beheading of about 100 buffaloes by contacting localities, distributing leaflets and giving speeches.

The brutal ritual of fox sacrifice is prevalent in a number of villages of Karnataka on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. Foxes are illegally trapped, their mouths sewn with needle and thread and presented to the deity and then their lower right ears are amputated and a pack of stray starving dogs made to attack them. Traumatised, mauled, bleeding and dying, the fox is then let loose in the forest. In 1997 Beauty Without Cruelty along with Compassion Unlimited Plus Action was successful in obtaining a Court order thanks to which the cruelty inflicted on the foxes was lessened, but unfortunately nothing could be done to stop the hundreds of sheep and goats which were sacrificed in the temples. However, in 1998, BWC managed to further lessen the suffering inflicted upon the captured fox and succeeded in convincing the inhabitants of the Udbur village against the goat and sheep sacrifice as a result of which not a single animal was killed. Since then they have never sacrificed animals.

In November 2005 some BWC members in Kochi found that two camels had been brought to Kochi for
feasting on camel meat during Ramzaan Idd. On receiving their complaint the Kochi Corporation banned their slaughter. The owner of the camels approached the Kerala High Court but before the case could conclude one of the camels died due to poor living conditions and an improper diet. The judgement pronounced that the other camel could not be slaughtered on the grounds that there was no provision for slaughtering camels within the corporation limits, no qualified vet to certify its fitness for slaughter or suitability of its meat for human consumption, and no one licensed to slaughter or sell camel meat.

The Karnataka High Court in January 2009 forbid camels to be brought into the state due to climatic conditions being unsuitable for them resulting in several deadly infectious diseases like anthrax which put other animals and humans at risk. According to the Dean of the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences at Hebbal, Bengaluru, camels made to walk in unsuitable climatic conditions with lack of food, rest and water en route, found the journey so stressful that they developed diseases such as tryanosomiases, bronco-pneumonia, intracellular haemoprotozoam, anthrax and even rabies.

Karnataka is the not the only state where camels are taken for being sacrificed for Bakri Idd. They are walked out of Rajasthan and Gujarat (the desert regions from where they hail) to far flung places in India. There are strong objections from West Bengal too.

Court cases have concluded that sacrificing animals such as camels, cows and calves, is not a religious requirement at Bakri Idd and therefore illegal. In 2014 after Rajasthan granted state heritage status to the camel, their sacrifice for Bakri Idd automatically stopped within the state. For example, the Tonk royal family discontinued the 150 year tradition. However, camels were sacrificed in other parts of the country. For example, at Varanasi a local newspaper subtly promoted the sacrifice of 5 camels.

BWC supported People for Cattle in India’s PIL resulting in the Chennai High Court passing an interim order banning camel slaughter for religious purposes in Tamil Nadu. This was in September 2016 before Bakri Idd.

A 120 year old tradition of animal sacrifice finally ended in 2012 thanks to police intervention following persistent efforts of two NGOs over 12 years. Till then, to celebrate the Rajo Sankranti festival, every year hundreds of animals were sacrificed in the name of the Deity Maa Ramchandi at Srirampur and neighbouring villages in Orissa.

Buffaloes were also not sacrificed at the 2012 Kherling Mahadev Mela at Mundneshwar temple in Kaljikhal block, about 45 kms from Pauri Garhwal (Uttarakhand). Although one and two were kept for sacrifice at Guthinda village and Chhota Kherling Mahadev at Barkot they were handed over live to the administration. (Some goats may have been slaughtered but not on the temple premises.) It is commendable that the administration motivated the people of Aswalsuen, Patwalsuen and Maniyarsuen patties against animal sacrifice which resulted in no bloodshed. Apart from their efforts the high cost of buffaloes (Rs 40,000) and cost of rituals spanning a fortnight prior to sacrifice (Rs 25-30,000) played an important role resulting in no animal being sacrificed.

All over India animal activists are trying their utmost by convincing people to stop animals being sacrificed. Ancient practices that begun with few animals being killed have at most places escalated to thousands of lives being sacrificed like at the Poleramma Jatra, Venkatagiri, Andhra Pradesh. In 2012 a strong movement was launched to halt the evil practice.

PAWS informed BWC that there was a good chance if organisations working for animals brought pressure upon the Trustees of the Bhargavram Parshuram temple at Chiplun (a hamlet off the Mumbai-Goa highway, in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra) not to allow goats to be sacrificed Dussera 2012 onwards. BWC therefore joined forces with Sarvajeev Mangal Pratishtan and appealed in person to the Trustees, including the Collector who was the Chairman of the Trust and was expected to kill the first goat. Our representative visited on Dussera, confirming that no sacrifices took place.

In September 2014, in response to petitions filed by animal activists from PFA, the Himachal Pradesh High Court passed an order prohibiting animal sacrifices during religious ceremonies and festivals both in temples and in buildings adjoining places of worship.

Gadhimai Mela, Nepal

BWC could not stop the mass slaughter of animals sacrificed at the Gadhimai Mela, Nepal, but with help extended by the Government of India, managed to reduce 50 percent of animals beheaded in 2009.

The next Gadhimai Mela is scheduled to be held probably on 28 and 29 November 2014 but animal activists have begun creating awareness well in advance.


To know more please read the following:

Tourists hate witnessing gory Killing

BWC has drawn the attention of the Ministry of Tourism more than once to the increasing prevalence of animal slaughter in tourist locations and requested a strong directive be issued to curtail it. It was pointed out that whether in butcher shops or as ritual sacrifice in temples, the sights, sounds and smells of animal slaughter are extremely upsetting to the mind of the tourist, more so if from abroad since foreigners on seeing animals’ throats being slit are so shocked they do not hesitate to label our country barbaric. Tourists come to experience a relaxed time, not a time disturbed by the very shocking sights and pitiful sounds of animals being slaughtered or awaiting slaughter. In our appeal letters we added that although we know that butchery of animals is not prohibited, we would like it to be recognised as a moral issue in human society today and so requested that its prevalence not be encouraged. It was therefore especially important to keep tourist places pleasant and beautiful, and free of animal slaughter. Otherwise tourists would prefer staying away from such locations.

Two examples of temples cited in our appeals to the Government (mentioned above) and where BWC has put in efforts to try to stop animal sacrifice are the Hadimba Mata temple and Ekvira Devi mandir.

During the month prior to the scheduled Ekvira Mata Jatra of 2008, BWC teams visited Karla and several villages from which people would be participating but it was difficult to convince the fisher-folk to donate their own blood instead of sacrificing animals. Nevertheless, on the day we asked the Inlacks & Budhrani Hospital from Pune to set up a blood donation camp at the site – a common excuse for not donating blood was that they were under the influence of alcohol. Very few availed of this facility and thousands of animals were killed that night in the presence of each other, and in the presence of children who were in fact helping the butchers. On seeing goats being killed outside the authorised area, and the Police expressing inability to take action, BWC lodged a complaint at the Lonavala police station.

However, during the 2012 jatra, Beauty Without Cruelty and the Sarvajeev Mangal Pratishthan managed to successfully convince many Ekvira Devi devotees with the help of Marathi pamphlets and corner-meetings, not to buy and kill animals, as a result of which about 70% of animals remained unsold. Simultaneously the police ensured that the ban on animal slaughter on the hill was implemented to a great extent. Therefore, at the end of the three day jatra it was estimated that 7000 to 8000 chickens and goats must have been saved.

Again in April 2013 for the jatra, Beauty Without Cruelty and the Sarvajeev Mangal Pratishthan campaigned together. Weeks in advance letters were sent to numerous politicians asking them for support. The Police were contacted. Huge hoardings were put up and thousands of pamphlets in Marathi were distributed at the site and inserted in local newspapers. At the meeting of the organisers of the jatra which was attended by the trustees and head priest of the Ekvira Devi temple, our representatives were able to considerably convince the persons who mattered. The result of our efforts bore fruit with policemen checking each and every vehicle and not allowing liquor and animals to be taken up the hill. However, as we couldn’t get the authorities to close the butcher shops at the foothill, killing of some chickens and goats did unfortunately take place. Eight major Marathi and Hindi newspapers covered our campaign and praised what we had achieved saying it was unprecedented success because no animal was taken up to the temple and sacrificed there.

The highlight of our 2014 campaign to end animal sacrifice at Ekvira Devi jatra was the chief pujari of the temple saying he dreamt the Devi did not want animals to be sacrificed but this amazing development did not eliminate sacrifices totally. Nevertheless, year-on-year since 2008, our efforts have lessened the number of animals sacrificed. Many more animals would be saved if the butcher shops were to be closed on the days of the jatra and no goats and chickens are sold on and around the hill area. But to achieve this, we need much more understanding and support from the temple authorities and government functionaries. Sarva Jeeva Mangal Pratishthan and Beauty Without Cruelty will therefore continue to try to make them see our point of view.

Sri Lanka: Ritual sacrifices - banned

In August 2013 a Sri Lankan court stopped the ritual of animal sacrifices at Hindu temples throughout the island following a petition by a Buddhist monk group called the Jathika Bhikku Federation. Any one who wanted to perform animal sacrifice would be required to obtain a butcher’s licence.

Beauty Without Cruelty wishes that animal sacrifice will be banned all over India too. We are hopeful of it being banned in Maharashtra under the anti-black magic and superstition ordinance promulgated in August 2013 following the murder of activist Narendra Dabholkar.

Symbolic Bali

Unfortunately, the much needed reform has not taken place at Kalighat, Kolkata where amidst drum-beating thousands of sheep are sacrificed resulting in unforgettable “rivers of blood” as lamented by Mahatma Gandhi.

The Durga Pooja/Dassera celebrations include animal sacrifice/bali in several parts of India. Buffaloes, cocks, goats, and sheep are ritually sacrificed in hundreds; their flesh consumed as prasad.

But unlike other Kali temples, animals are not allowed to be sacrificed at the Dakshineshwar temple, near Kolkata.

Symbolic bali is the ritualistic sacrifice of white pumpkin and sugarcane and is gradually becoming more frequent, replacing animal sacrifices, e.g. Sandhi Puja on Ashtami at the Ramakrishna Math and Mission at Belur.

At the Kamakhya Devi Temple near Guwahati in Assam, one of the most venerated Durga/Shakti shrines in India, male animals are sacrificed in thousands. However, for the past few years a select group of tantriks have been gathering at there on Durga Ashtami and sacrificing instead of humans and animals, effigies made of flour – no outsider is allowed to witness the sacrifice.

On Mahashtami Day goats, lambs and cocks are sacrificed at a Durga temple in Sirlo, Orissa. However, it is understood that since 1985 animal sacrifices have been stopped at the Kataka Chandi temple and at the Sarala temple in the area.

Reforms beginning in the 15th and 16th centuries have evolved into symbolic sacrifices but only in some temples of the country: rice, til, coconuts, betel nuts, bananas, sugarcane and white pumpkins have become substitutes for lambs, goats, bulls, and chickens.

Killing, killing, killing…

It matters little if camels, goats or cows are killed for Bakri Idd, or if goats, chicken and buffalo calves are sacrificed in Hindu temples to appease deities such as Samantdada, Manju Bhog, goddesses Hadimba Mata, Ekvira, Kamakhya, Mahalaxmi and Kali, at festivals like the Biroba Jatra, or the captured wild fox, sheep and goat sacrifices take place at Makara Sankranti.

Animal activists have been unsuccessful in stopping the ritual Ajabali (animal sacrifice) that occurs at the Bhavani Tulja Mata temple in Tuljapur, Osmanabad district of Maharashtra.

At Chivari in Maharashtra, a fair is held annually on the Tuesday after Maghi Purnima when around seven thousand animals’ necks are twisted and killed in front of Goddess Laxmi. On the same day another fair called the Kayar Yatra is also held when after midnight buffaloes are sacrificed. The main attraction of this fair is finding a hidden lamb which is then bitten to death by the finder who hangs its intestine round his neck.

Animals are also killed at the Durajpalli Jatra which occurs every alternate year at the Linganamantalu Swamy temple of the Durajpalli village in Andhra Pradesh

The Kedu Festival of the Kondhs of Orissa involves a kedu (buffalo) anointed with oil and turmeric being tethered to a tree and brutally attacked with sharp instruments to the chant of mantras and beating drums. The animal squeals in agony, eyes bulging but can not flee. There is a mad rush to hack off pieces of its flesh. Also during the Sulia Pashubali Utsav over 10,000 animals are sacrificed in the remote villages of Khairaguda and Kumuria in Bolangir District of Orissa.

Buffaloes are killed during the festival in honour of the goddess Manju Bhog at Kanda in Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh.

Hundreds of buffaloes are sacrificed during the Kalinka festival at Bunkhal, a remote temple in Pauri District of Uttarakhand.

At the annual Mailapur village fair, Yadgir district, Karnataka, worshippers throw live lambs (instead of fruit and flowers as are usually showered as offerings) at the palanquin carrying the deity Mailareshwara.

To celebrate the Ooru Habba festival, two tribal groups, the Hakkipikki and Iruliga, sacrifice two buffaloes and two goats outside the Bannerghatta National Park.

Myoko, the monsoon festival, is celebrated by the Apatanis, a major tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, when a garlanded mithun (a cross between a cow and a buffalo) or deer is sacrificed at the end of the 10-day festival celebrations marked by rituals and merriment.

Pomblang or goat sacrifice is an important part of Nongkrem, a 5-day religious thanksgiving festival in Meghalaya.

Ritual sacrifices – or murder? The killing must stop… the sooner the better… taking the life of another is no sacrifice.

For detailed information on Animal Sacrifices please read

Page last updated on 26/09/16