A question asked often is about animal sacrifice. Goats are sacrificed in Kalighat Kali temple.
Animal sacrifices were part of the Vedic yagnas. One of the main objections of the early Bhuddhists was about animal sacrifices in the Vedic rituals. Over a period of time the praactice of animal sacrifice has been discontinued. The Bali has been replaced with substitutes like pumpkins, guords etc. It has totally disppeared in Vaidic rituals. But it is a fact that Animal sacrifices were the mainstay of the Vedic Yagnas.
Animal sacrifices have continued for a longer period in Tantrik rituals and Folk Hinduism that is worship of the Village Gods and Goddessses. It continues today also. But the frequency is reduced and it is not a very common occurance. In Tamil Nadu animal sacrifices are common in the worship of Madan, Karuppanna swami, Kali, Mariamman and other goddessses. Mostly it is cocks and goats. But buffaloes are also sometimes sacrificed.
The ban on animal sacrifices which was brought by the Tamil Nadu government had to be withdrawn because of public pressure. One of the first acts of the communist government in Keral was to ban animal sacrifices. It was fairly common in Kerala. But even now you still have Kuruthi(blood) pushpanjali and kuruthi Pushpam offering in many temples.
Vegetarian food is preferred for those seeking the spiritual path because of its Sattvik nature. But animal sacrifices were common in most of the Yagnas and it is specifically mentioned in Krishna Yajur Veda which deals with the procedures for Yagnas.
Even today it is the tradition in many states to offer Animals as sacrifice to God. The only religion where animal sacrifice is forbidden is Christianity. What surprises me is that many of the people who argue against animal sacrifice do not think at all while eating mutton and chicken. The fact is that the sacrificial rites are definitely kinder to the animals than the procedures in abattoirs or slaughter houses.
Just because these are done by the common man does not give us any right to look askance at the practice. By doing that we are driving away people from Hinduism.
Hinduism is a parliament of religions ranging from Animism to Advaita. Everyone follows a path which suits his/her nature. We have to accept these traditions. We talk about tolerance or acceptance of other religions. But let us first practice tolerance of the various traditions in Hinduism.