Ah, the perennial topic of animal sacrifice is upon us once more, thanks to the Hindu festival of Gadhima, celebrated in a little village in Nepal every five years. Some folks in Queens tried to make it an issue in the recent election involving Theodsman Dan Halloran, since Theodsmen practice animal sacrifice as part of our faith, and anything that smacks of The Serpent and the Rainbow makes good newspaper copy. But Dan, at least, didn't get Brigit Bardot protesting against him. Then again, Dan never sacrificed 200,000 animals before.
The usual suspects are out in force, bleating about how "barbaric" the practice is, and how it must be stopped, etc., etc., etc.
But in reality, their protests are really aimed at the entire non-animal-rights community; anyone who doesn't think that every fuzzy baby isn't-he-so-cute beastie with big brow eyes deserves full human rights and representation in the World Court. The meat industry is just the tip of the iceberg for these fanatics; given their choice, they would outlaw not only circuses and zoos, leather and KFC restaurants, but even pets and service animals as well.
They are, quite simply, unhinged. Their arguments have nothing to do with animal sacrifice specifically as a religious practice; the meat from the animals is used to produce a communal feast, and the rest of the parts (hooves, hides, etc.) are sold to provide money to support the temples and the district in general. It's not like they're just being killed to give someone some jollies at the sight of blood being spilled. It's quite obvious, too, that the ritual is an old and sacred tradition, and that the people sincerely believe that their efforts will bring them prosperity and the favor of the Goddess Gadhimai. They're not just a bunch of drunken louts, Ms. Bardot's snide comments to the contrary; only 250 men took place in the actual sacrifices, and they needed to be licensed by the state.
The parallels between the Hindu ceremony and that of Germanic paganism are obvious. The sacrifices at Uppsala took place on a regular schedule (every 9 years in that case) and consisted of many hundreds of animals sacrificed to Odin. The current practice is under siege not only by hard-core animal rights whackos, but by more "progressive" Pagans and Heathens, who are certain that the Gods have moved beyond the need for such displays and are quite content with offerings of bread and wine, thank you very much. Their precise source for such pronouncements is, as a rule, lacking.
I should also point out that such blood sacrifice in modern Paganism is not limited to Theodism, although it does seem to exist in the reconstructionist wing of the broad faith-umbrella that is modern neo-paganism. Practitioners of Asatru, the Religio Romana, Hellenism, and Celtic Reconstructionism all engage in such practices, although it should be pointed out that, as noted above, support for such is hardly universal. (When I started up a Sacrifice Fund in Nova Roma, to allow private citizens to make donations to pay for priests who chose to do so, to perform the sacrifices, the reaction was, in retrospect, predictable.)
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. There is no ritual more moving, more startling, and more powerful than a properly-conducted blood offering. In modern practice, such offerings are invariably done by people trained in the practice, and under the most humane conditions. The animals do not suffer, and the flesh is used to feed the gathered folk. It is, by any standard, a much more humane death than that afforded by modern slaughterhouses, and the only people that, given a few moments' intellectual honesty, would still object are those kooks who object to the entire concept of animals being used for human comfort and sustenance.
And you know what? I'm okay with that.