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These goats don’t know it, but they’re headed for the dinner table.

While we were trekking around the Annapurna Circuit, the Nepalese people were in the middle of the 15-day national festival of Dasain. Dasain (sometimes “Dashain”) is a Hindu harvest festival, where families gather together, feast and make merry, recite mantras, and worship the “Astha-Matrikas (the 8 tantrik goddesses) as well as the Nava Durgas (the 9 durga goddesses), to whom the festival is consecrated.”

They also kill a lot of goats. Every year, more than 200,000 Nepalese goats are ritually slaughtered to honor the goddesses. We saw hundreds of goats getting rounded up, and put in holding pens. (I realize now that that’s why they were herding thousands of goats down the Friendship Highway from Tibet to Nepal a few weeks ago.)

Animal sacrifice deep-rooted in Nepal’s culture.

“Nepalese kill animals to sanctify weddings, new homes or religious festivals. Upon purchasing a new car or truck, the owner sometimes splashes its exterior with fresh animal blood, to ensure the vehicle doesn’t crash whenever it is driven. When an animal is to be sacrificed, it should be an uncastrated male which is killed, apparently as a display of life’s potency. This death to please the gods is also interpreted as doing the animal a favor by releasing it from a life of suffering, amid hopes that it may be reborn as a much more fortunate human.

Every few minutes as we walked around the circuit, we’d hear a gunshot as the next goat was put to death. We also saw the actual butchering of several goats — which you’ll see below.

WARNING: Some of the photos in this set are graphic.

The Holding Pen

The goats were all herded into a few fields where they waited for their fate. I’m not sure if they knew what was coming, but I certainly sensed some sense of uneasiness among the herd.

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Slaughter

We met a few Nepalese who were slaughtering goats, and this group gladly invited my friends and I to take pictures. When the goat is butchered for Dasain, its head is completely cut off, and the blood that pours from its neck is collected for use in the festival.

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Protests From Animal Rights Groups

Some animal rights groups disagree with the ritual slaughter of so many goats… here’s some info about protesting I found on AnimalNepal.org. (Click the image to read the full article.)

Personally, I’ve got no problem with killing farm animals so long as they’re eaten. Sure, they’re killed in the name of a Hindu goddess, but they also become dinner a short while later. It might be a bit brutal, but that’s where meat comes from. These slaughterings didn’t appear any more inhumane than any other slaughters I’ve ever witnessed. Let the Nepalese enjoy their festival. What’s the big deal?