Article published in the Sunday Leader of 29th August 2010 as follow up to the photo essay linked in the previous post – http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2010/08/29/mass-animal-slaughter-at-arulmigu-sri-maha-bathrakaliyam-kovil/
Mass Animal Slaughter At Arulmigu Sri Maha Bathrakaliyam Kovil
Text and pictures by Natalie Soysa
Dragged to slaughter – two boys beating and dragging a reluctant goat into the kovil premises and Ready to be reaped – An eyewitness said the chickens were swung around by both head and feet around 15 times each before being dashed on the ground
A kovil in Chilaw, namely the Arulmigu Sri Maha Bathrakaliyam Kovil was the cause of much commotion a few days ago. The slaughter of 300 goats and a countless number of chickens was to take place in celebration and devotion to the goddess Kali. This annual festival and slaughter has been taking place for over 13 generations and has in recent years, come into the radars of various animal rights activists and religious leaders, including the All Ceylon Hindu Congress (ACHC), who have condemned this act of mass slaughter.
This year, the collective group of protestors, which included SLAPA, Embark and the Association of Sangas, headed to the kovil on the morning of August 25th to commence a mass, yet peaceful protest, only to be thwarted by the authorities in the kovil as well as the devotees gathered within the kovil. One woman went as far as threaten one of the photographers on site with a knife if a single photograph of the slaughter was taken. Before any protest could take place, a large group of police officers rounded up the group of protestors and media personnel and escorted them out of the premises on the grounds of intending to disturb the peace within the kovil.
A Peaceful Protest – A group of monks, animal rights activists and concerned citizens demonstrated at a peaceful protest on the next lane to the kovil as they were not allowed any closer, being threatened by riot police who turned a blind eye to the violence going on inside
Within moments the riot police was also deployed, pushing the group of protesters further back into the next lane, where they made their statements. The protestors requested the authorities within the kovil to stop this slaughter which was taking place in the name of a religion that preaches peace.
Many assumed that this was an act of Hindu devotion and the involvement of Buddhist priests instantly implied an almost racial connotation to the protest. However, there were Hindus amongst the group of protestors and many of the people within the kovil, demanding that the slaughter take place, were Buddhists themselves. The majority of Hindus within the country belong to various sects of the religion. This is merely one sect of the religion whose ancient practices have not evolved over time. Many ancient religions also included human sacrifice at one point which has been done away with over the years as religious leaders have found newer interpretations of their religions within their respective ancient texts.
The question arises as to what is fair when it comes to the slaughter of animals. A countless number of livestock are slaughtered on a daily basis for food. For another, it is a basic human right to be able to practice one’s religion. In Nepal, a similar festival calls for the slaughter of some 250,000 animals each year. However, Sri Lankan law clearly prohibits the public slaughter of animals as per the Butcher’s Ordinance.
Furthermore, the manner in which these animals are slaughtered raises questions on the supposed spiritual motivations behind this act; an eye witness to the slaughter stated that a man proceeded to hold a chicken by its neck, swinging the terrified bird around about 15 times before finally dashing the chicken on the ground repeatedly, ignoring his own child’s terrified screams. The child was then rebuked and slapped for not wanting to watch the killing of the chicken the family had brought in.
Many parents also opted to let their children carry and in some cases, drag the animals into the kovil, believing that the goddess would look kindly upon their children for this act. Two young boys were seen beating and dragging a goat into the kovil.
The presently functioning law on the prevention of cruelty to animals was passed in 1907 and some argue that many such laws were written vaguely with no clear cut procedure on how the law can be enforced, based on the specific situation. India on the other hand passed a law in 1950 that clearly prohibits the slaughter of animals on legal grounds. In Sri Lanka too there were court rulings in the 1970’s against the slaughter of animals in some kovils in Jaffna on the grounds of it being more a social practice than a religious norm.