Four months after Nepal came under fire from animal
lovers worldwide for holding the biggest animal sacrifice fair in its southern
plains, hundreds of people are now flocking to the west to participate in
a festival to drink yak’s blood.
women and even children have been heading for Myagdi, a remote district
in western Nepal, to take part in the khun khane ritual, which literally
means drinking blood. The festival sees the local yak herders making money
by selling the blood of live yaks to people who queue up in hundreds to
drink it, in the belief their illnesses will be cured. While lactating female
yaks are spared, other yaks above the age of two are chosen for the ritual.
Pinned down by people who hold their tails and horns and their legs tied,
the yaks are then bled by a professional bleeder, known as the aamji. The
aamji pierces the jugular vein of the hapless animal and the streaming blood
is collected in cups that are then passed among the crowd, who drink the
warm, frothy liquid unwaveringly. Each yak is bled to collect between 20
to 40 cups of blood.
ritual is believed to be an old Tibetan one that originated in Mustang in
northern Nepal, once part of an ancient Tibetan kingdom. The participants
are mostly people suffering from chronic diseases who have given up hope
of being cured by modern medicine. An American researcher, Zorina Curry,
who studied the khun khane festival, correlates the ritual to the belief
in witchcraft and the superstition that blood is effective as medicine as
well as an aphrodisiac. However, Curry also warned that since the yaks were
not inoculated, some had TB and the blood—drinking could infect the
human drinker. The festival has been condemned by Nepal’s animal rights
activists who last year urged the government to stop the slaughter of tens
of thousands of animals and birds at the five—yearly Gadhimai Festival
but to no avail. The Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) has termed the
khun khane practice barbaric.
“Can you think how painful it must be for these innocent creatures
to have their necks and bodies pierced and to be drained of blood?”
AWNN had said in an earlier statement.
“Humanity as a whole must speak out against cruelty against living
beings in the name of religion, culture or health.”
Nepal prides itself on being the birthplace of the Buddha, the founder of
Buddhism, the religion that preaches non-violence, local rituals abound
in rank cruelty to animals without being banned by a succession of weak
governments for fear of a backlash. Another local practice is the deer hunt
in which the hunters wound the victim and then tear out its palpitating
heart while it is still alive.