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By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - At least 15,000 buffalo and "countless" goats and birds were sacrificed in a temple in southern Nepal, organisers said Wednesday, a ritual billed as the single biggest animal slaughter on earth.
Hindus in Nepal routinely offer animals for sacrifice to appease deities, Especially power goddesses, for good luck and prosperity.
But the festival held every five years at the Gadhimai temple in southern Nepal was condemned this year by animal rights activists, including French actress Brigitte Bardot, who called for an end to the centuries-old ritual of slaughtering animals.
The temple in Bariyapur is located about 150 km (95 miles) from Kathmandu, in Nepal's southern plains bordering India.
"We had more than 15,000 buffalo sacrificed Tuesday. But the number of goats and birds, including roosters and pigeons, sacrificed Wednesday is countless," Shiva Chandra Prasad Kushawaha, chief of the festival's organising committee said.
"This reflects the faith of the devotees on Gadhimai, the goddess for power," he told Reuters by telephone.
Scores of butchers carrying big curved knives killed the animals in an open field as thousands of devotees stood by, witnesses reached by phone said. More than 80 percent of Nepal's 27 million people are Hindus.
"It is a tradition and people's faith. How can any protests stop that," asked Mangal Chaudhary, chief priest of the temple, adding there were no protests.
Some devotees said they were offering animals for sacrifice in the hope of being blessed with a son, preferred by many parents in Nepal and India. Thousands of devotees also travelled from neighbouring India for the festival
(Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Bill Tarrant)