Sacrificing Goats for Dashain Festival, Nepal

Run For Your Lives, Little Goats

Like an old-fashioned 8mm movie rolling and flickering in an antique projector, the scene on a busy Kathmandu street unfolded frame by frame. I was on a bus bound for Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal for a three-day, two-night safari. The trip was supposed to take five hours but already we’d been sitting in backed up traffic for more than two hours and we still hadn’t made it out of the capital city.

Bored and seeking any distraction that would take my mind off the hard seat that was making my butt ache, I turned my attention to the street. In a gap between trucks moving just as slowly in the opposite direction I noticed a small butcher shop sandwiched between a lunch stand and a pharmacy. Behind the open-air wooden counter, a lady butcher swept her hand through the air in a futile attempt to shoo away swarms of flies dive-bombing the pale, plucked chickens lined up in a row on the countertop, sweating under a blistering sun.

Then traffic moved and blocked my view.

A minute later a truck inched forward, providing me a new window on the scene. A young boy led a goat by a short length of frayed rope. Just as he was about to tie the goat to a telephone pole in front of the shop, traffic again rolled across the stage. How strange, I mused. Someone tying up a goat on a busy retail street in the middle of Kathmandu.

With each opening between buses and trucks, the slaughter scene played out before my eyes

When traffic next inched forward the boy was running after his goat, which had cleverly escaped its tether. He snatched the rope, dragged the goat back to the pole, and tied it more securely.

Another bus, another wait, another scene revealed itself between vehicles.

The goat was lying on the ground, securely tied to the pole, with the boy sitting on top of it. Weird. Why would he do that? Maybe he’s trying to punish the goat or teach it who’s boss. My butt no longer hurt and I wasn’t thinking about the fact that my bus hadn’t moved an inch for more than an hour. I just wanted to know what would come next between boy and goat and waited impatiently for the behemoth truck that currently blocked my view to move.

Traffic finally provided me a fleeting glimpse and my jaw dropped open in horror. The butcher-woman was carrying the goat’s head up the stairs to her shop, dripping blood and trailing sinew, while the boy sat astride the still twitching carcass. As traffic closed in I wondered if my eyes had played a trick on me. I waited anxiously for the next view but by the time traffic moved even the carcass had been removed. If not for the pool of blood on the street, I would have thought I’d imagined it.

Stunned, I asked the other passengers if they’d witnessed the grizzly scene and learned that slaughtering goats is a big part of the Hindu festival of Dashain, which would begin in just a couple of days. Goats and buffalo are sacrificed to the goddess Laxmi and their blood is painted on surfaces for good luck and dripped into grain that is later used to prepare a feast. Thousands of goats are slaughtered across the country during Dashain, which I discovered was also the reason behind the backed-up traffic, since thousands of Nepali were traveling back to their villages of origin to celebrate this most important holiday with their families.

When the inside of the bus has no more room, passengers climb up top with the luggage and livestock

“Haven’t you noticed all the goats being transported?” asked my seatmate.

I looked out my window with new eyes and saw goats being led down the side of the road in mini-herds; goats sandwiched between driver and passenger on motorcycles, their hooves dangling on either side of the seat; and even goats riding on top of buses, wedged between human passengers and mounds of luggage.

Jump off little goats! Breaking a leg is infinitely better than the fate that awaits you. But of course they paid no heed, going willingly to slaughter, and once again I was very glad to be a vegetarian.

20 Comments on “Run For Your Lives, Little Goats

  1. I have posted previously on my fb page about the Slaughter of the Innocents for a festival carnage called Dashain and will share this article also.  As one famous person is alleged to have said “They know not what they do” and I would say the same about all who participate in the taking of life from another being at any stage of complicity any day or any holiday (including USA Thanksgiving.)  It is
    heartbreaking that humans around the planet engage in these atrocities without any grasp of their lack of compassion, kindness or willingness to recognize their shared beingness with those they kill.

  2. Although I’m not a vegetarian stories like this always make me think I should be. I eat very little meat, however, so it kind of isn’t a pressing problem. When we first came to live here in the Canary Islands guys used to go around the villages with live goats in vans, offering them for sale. If you bought one, it would be slaughtered right there and then for you. I haven’t heard anyone mention that for a long time now though.

    • Hi Islandmomma! Yes, seeing it so out in the open really brings home the
      reality of the carnage surrounding the eating of meat.

  3. That baby crying in your video would have been my final straw…poor thing! Poor you! However – at the same time – I LOVE everything about Nepal…even the insane traffic! What a great story Barbara!!

    • Ottsworld: It’s the strangest thing, but I’m is such a good space that the
      crying baby didn’t much get on my nerves. It sounds worse to me now watching
      the video!

  4. That traffic was pleasant to watch from my comfy seat, but probably a little less from yours, especially after hours on the bus! I’ve never tried recording the traffic to see if I’d like it better later. 🙂

    Your story had me on the edge of my seat – that poor goat! Happy travels & hope to cross paths w/ you in Chiang Mai or elsewhere!

    • Hi BessieJulia: When will you be in Thailand? I was planning on an early
      December arrival but now it looks like I will stay in Nepal longer. Might
      get there in January.

  5. Do they eat the goats or are they simply being sacrificed? I don’t have too much of a problem with goats being killed for meat. I have had goats killed in Africa and Asia right in front of me. In Africa, it happened right in our campground in Ethiopia. A little goat was being pulled along to it’s death and it knew it. It is shocking, but at least it was killed for food. When animals are slaughtered by the thousands, that is when it is senseless and extremely sad. Nepal is known for it’s ritual animal slaughter. Hundreds of thousands of animals in two days each year. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7052543.stm

    • Dave and Deb: From what I gather, the goats are eaten, rather like our
      Christmas turkey in the States. Although I do think the world would be a
      much better place if we were all vegetarians, that is a decision for each
      person. Like you, I can accept the killing animals for food, but not for
      needless ritual slaughter. saw more than this one sacrifice during Dashain
      but it was the first and made the most impact. Of curse, we all know
      intellectually that animals must be killed in order to eat meat, in the
      developed countries of the world the slaughter takes place out of sight and
      I think we somehow think that makes it better somehow. At the very least, we
      can ignore it. But here in Nepal, it happens out n the open and there is no
      avoiding or ignoring it.

  6. I have seen a couple of sacrifices in travels and they aren’t comfortable to witness at all but they are a part of cultures and festivals that have often run for many hundreds of years. While I am confident that the goat will be used for meat and not just discarded, it is a vexed question for me.

    And that baby would have driven me bananas for 8 or 10 hours…Geez…

  7. I don’t think I could bear seeing that. I’ve always said the day humanity is required to kill our own meat before we’re allowed to eat it is the day I become a vegetarian. And goats are so darned cute.

  8. I’ll never forget seeing a sheep being sacrificed in my Ankara neighborhood when I was a child for the Islamic ‘Kurban Bayrami’. It was really traumatic and I couldn’t partake in eating him later – I think it was the planting of the first seed of vegetarianism for me. This post reminded me of that and I, like you, wish the goats knew enough to run off too…

    • Anil – didn’t know you are also a veg. The world would definitely be a
      better place if no one ate meat!

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    • Hi Johanna: If you think they crying baby was bad in the video, imagine
      riding with it in the bus for 10 hours. The mother did virtually nothing to
      shut it up. Other passengers began giving her candy, which would stop the
      crying temporarily, but the moment the candy was gone she would start
      wailing again. Strangely, it didn’t bother me at all. I guess I’m just so
      “in the moment” that nothing seems to get on my nerves. It’s a wonderful
      place to be.

    • Hi Ruth! I know exactly what you mean, but for me the bad days are when I’m
      not traveling. Never feel that way anymore while I’m on the road.

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