KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) – A festival believed to be the largest animal sacrifice ritual in the world began Friday in southern Nepal, where devotees believe the sacrifices bring good luck and a Hindu goddess will grant their wishes.
In the fields outside a temple before dawn, a priest dropped five drops of his own blood and sacrificed a rat, chicken, pigeon, goat, and pig to start the festival. More than 5,000 buffaloes were ritually killed during the day.
Many other animals will be killed during the two-day festival at Gadhimai temple in the jungles of Bara district about 100 miles south of Katmandu.
Organizers and the authorities defend the festival held every five years as a generations-old tradition, though animal rights activists decry it as barbaric. During the 2009 festival, an estimated 200,000 animals and birds were sacrificed.
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Most people who attend the festival are from neighboring India, even though that country bans the export of animals for the festival.