Gadhimai Hindu Festival
A butcher holding his blade stands among sacrificed buffalos inside an enclosed compound during the sacrificial ceremony of the "Gadhimai Mela" festival.Reuters

The Gadhimai festival, the world's largest animal sacrifice held in Nepal, will see no more bloodshed as animal sacrifice has now been banned. 

The Gadhimai Temple Trust announced its decision on Tuesday to ban animal sacrifice at the festival that is held every five years. 

The festival was previously held in November last year that saw thousands of animals being slaughtered despite international protests and criticism. 

"The Gadhimai Temple Trust hereby declares our formal decision to end animal sacrifice. With your help, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is free from bloodshed. Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life," the trust said in a statement, according to the Press Trust of India. 

"For generations, pilgrims have sacrificed animals to goddess Gadhimai, in the hope of a better life. For every life taken, our heart is heavy. The time has come to transform an old tradition. The time has come to replace killing and violence with peaceful worship and celebration," Ram Chandra Shah, chairman of the trust has said. 

The nearly 300-year-old festival has come to be heavily criticised by animal rights activists around the world for the massive bloodshed involved. 

In 2009, more than five lakh animals including goats, buffaloes and chickens were slaughtered at the Gadhimai festival, though the number reportedly fell in the festival held last year to about 1 lakh.

Animal activists and welfare organisations cheered the ban on the ritual.

"We commend everyone involved in making the decision to ban the ritual slaughter of animals for the Gandhimai festival. Nepal is showing great leadership by recognising that animal suffering should play no part in religious worship," Azzedine Downes, CEO and President of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said in a statement sent to IBTimes India.

The Human Society International/India, which campaigned against the festival, said that millions of animal lives will now be saved. 

"This is a tremendous victory for compassion that will save the lives of countless animals. HSI/India was heartbroken to witness the bloodshed at Gadhimai, and we've worked hard to help secure this ban on future sacrifice. We commend the temple committee but acknowledge that a huge task lies ahead of us in educating the public so that they are fully aware," Gauri Maulekhi, HSI/India consultant, said in a statement posted on the website

HSI India and the Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) had sought the Supreme Court's intervention in preventing the movement of sacrifice animals from India to Nepal, which helped bring down the number of animals slaughtered by 70 % last year compared to 2009. 

The activists met union minister Maneka Gandhi, herself an animal rights supporter, in Delhi on Tuesday to announce the ban.