This morning, across the Internet, a spammer is placing the following comment on vegetarian blogs across the Internet:
“If you are vegetarian because you love animals, please note this: in southern Nepal, 25 kilometers away from Ram Bomjon’s meditation site, the world’s largest animal sacrifice is about to begin.
At the stalls of Gadhi Mai Mela animals are selling like hotcakes.
The massacre of a million animals takes place on November 24, 2009.
Is this really how it has to be?”
The date, November 24, 2009, is the big tipoff that this message was created by a spambot. Today is August 26, 2011.
First, let’s deal with Ram Bomjon. Ram Bomjon is a young man who is at the heart of the Dharma Sangha near the village of Ratanapuri in Nepal. As a teenager, he began a stunt of claiming to be able to meditate for months and months on end without eating, drinking or moving. Of course, his fellow adolescent devotees insisted on concealing Ram Bomjon from view every night, and refused to allow physicians to examine him in order to confirm the claims made about him.
Ram Bomjon now goes by the monastic name of Palden Dorje and maintains a center of Buddhist meditation. He has issued an 8-point summary of his spiritual insights, which he says he received through instruction by “the Buddhas” directly. These insights include the admonition “to avoid debates and arguments as to whether something is true or false”. That’s a convenient position for someone who has gained his fame through extraordinary claims of truth, and perhaps not consistent with Ram Bomjon’s own record, which includes a physical attack on local villagers who dared to scoff at his assertions of holiness.
What of the story of massive animal sacrifice?
There is indeed a Gadhimai festival that takes place every five years in Nepal (which means that the next festival will take place in 2014, not later this year). At this festival, a quarter of a million animals (not a million, as the spam claims) are slaughtered as a part of a ritual of sacrifice to the goddess Gadhimai. The event used to take place in India, but India passed laws against animal cruelty which made the festival illegal there.
The slaughter of a quarter million animals seems like an awful lot of violence, but consider that the number of people attending the festival is estimated between one million and 5 million. That means there’s something like one animal sacrificed for every 4 to 20 people. Some of these animals are large, like water buffalo, but many are small animals, like ducks. All of the meat from these animals is sold, and eaten.
The Gahimai festival seems like a barbaric display of violence. It certainly is foreign to the American experience – but maybe that’s because it’s a display of violence, rather than the practice of hidden violence.
In India, the annual per capital consumption of meat is just 11.5 pounds. In Nepal, the annual per capital consumption of meat is 22 pounds. In the United States of America, the annual per capita consumption of meat is 275 pounds. On average, one American eats as much meat as 12 and a half Nepalese. One American eats as much meat as 24 people in India.
So, where’s the deplorable slaughter, really?
The officially reported number of animals slaughtered in the United States about 9.2 billion per year (USDA 2010 statistic). How much is that slaughter, compared to the slaughter that takes place at the Gadhimai festival?
It’s enough slaughter to hold 25 festivals comparable to the Gadhimai festival, every single day of the year.
As animal rights activists will be happy to remind you, many of these animals, though not all, are raised and slaughtered in inhumane conditions.
So, what kind of basis for moral outrage do we have here in the United States to condemn a the Gadhimai slaughter in Nepal?