In conversations about protecting the cow, people often ignore the bull. Bulls are peaceful animals and only compete with each other over a mate. Unfortunately, bulls face cruel exploitation just for the sake of entertainment. India has banned bullfights since 1960 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act because of the discomfort and unnecessary pain and suffering that bull owners mete out to these gentle creatures. However, several politicians and governments have been trying to circumvent the constitution by legalising bullfights. The latest is the Government of Goa, which has formed a house committee to explore the possibility of reversing the ban on bullfights, locally known as "dhirio".
The Government of Goa invited comments from various stakeholders regarding the issue by 11 December. In response, animal protection organisations, including Humane Society International, asked stakeholders and the general public to send their comments and to sign a petition against the government's move to allow bullfighting. Fortunately, of the 700-plus suggestions received, most backed the ban and the petition garnered more than 7600 signatures and was submitted to the government.
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In a typical bullfight, onlookers jeer on two bulls as they are forced into combat, often inflicting debilitating injuries upon each other. Some handlers even clamp the animals' testicles to instigate them to fight. If bulls refuse to fight, concede or attempt to escape from the arena, the handlers as well as onlookers often provoke the opposing bull into chasing them down.
Bullfights are not only cruel to the animals who are being forced to fight; they also pose a great threat to public safety.
Even the events preparing bulls for a fight are steeped in cruelty. As part of the training regimen, the bulls are made to run long distances with heavy weights around their necks, forced to stand in knee-deep water and confined for long periods with the intent to build endurance and aggression. Their horns are filed to a lance point to enable them to inflict deep wounds to their opponents. By the end of the duel(s), most of the animals are mortally wounded and those thought to be unfit for further fights are sold for illegal slaughter without even being examined by a veterinarian or being pronounced fit for consumption, as is the law.
Bullfights are not only cruel to the animals that are being forced to fight; they also pose a great threat to public safety. Bullfights are usually organised in clearings in and around villages, without any barricades. At one event organized in the compound of a school, some 2,000 people, including minors, reportedly attended. A situation placing scared and agitated bulls in such close proximity to heckling crowds smacks of an obvious disregard for safety of both people and animals. Injuries occur and at one such fight a death was reported.
Bullfights are against the law
The law explicitly prohibits incitement of animal fights and organising or facilitating them under section 11(1) (m) (ii) and (n) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 respectively. Section 3 of the Act also defines the duties of persons having charge of animals especially to prevent the infliction of pain and suffering upon the animals. In a previous ruling, the Hon'ble High Court of Bombay upheld the validity of the aforementioned sections and consequently, the ban on bullfighting in Goa. Additionally, the Hon'ble Supreme Court explicitly banned animal fighting while pronouncing the landmark Jallikattu judgment in 2014 and upheld various sections of the PCA Act, and reiterated the legal responsibility of the owner towards the animals in his charge. The court also declared that animal fighting cannot be carried out under the guise of tradition and culture and declared the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act as unconstitutional as it allowed the practice which is in contradiction to the prohibition in the Central Act. The Goa government's attempt to legalise Dhirio will meet a similar fate.
Any tradition or practice which inflicts pain and suffering for entertainment must be rejected. Instead, it would do us well to recall India's tradition of ahimsa or non-violence towards all creatures. Bullfighting is violent and usually goes hand in hand with gambling and betting, which are also illegal activities. If bullfights are legalised, Goa may cease to be a favourite holiday hotspot for national and international tourists.
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