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Jallikattu's Importance In Conservation And Culture Needs To Be Acknowledged

This is Part 2 of a series on understanding the whats and whys of jallikattu.

24/01/2017 2:05 PM IST | Updated 25/01/2017 9:02 AM IST
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Co-authored with Ajay Chandra Vasagam, an independent researcher.

As outlined in part 1 of this series, most supporters of jallikattu have not only been peaceful, but have displayed an excellent spirit of solidarity and set an example for any future conflict with the authorities. It is crucial at this point to analyse issues that provide ancillary support to the Jallikattu dialogue. In this part, we have presented a few arguments raised by the supporters of the sport and tried to reason them out in terms of their relevance.

"Two wrongs don't make a right"

An important argument placed by jallikattu supporters is that there are many such sports in India and which have not been banned by the Supreme Court. This argument has been dismissed as irrelevant by animal rights advocates, who say "two wrongs don't make a right."

Merely putting in place a ban would heighten people's attachment to the sport and the opportunity to regulate excesses would be lost.

However, we think this argument warrants a more nuanced engagement. The theory of social engineering by the eminent jurist Roscoe Pound states that our societies are filled with competing interests. The aim of the law is to engineer society in a way where all the interests are harmonised. Every society is characterised by a certain outlook, maturity and composure. The most effective law would be one which accounts for the particular nature of that society. In this case, a ban on a sport in one place and a similar one being allowed elsewhere is seen as discrimination. Forcing a ban, we think, wouldn't help but harm the process of engineering a society's outlook.

In other words, the idea should be to regulate any excesses in the current system and push alternative thoughts too. This will result in constructive dialogues/debates involving all parties. In such a scenario, if jallikattu continues to be supported vociferously by the people, it should be allowed to continue in a reasonable form.

Merely putting in place a ban would heighten people's attachment to the sport and the opportunity to regulate excesses would be lost. In the end, we need to understand that the law is meant to regulate the conduct of people to give them the best kind of environment to live in. Taking the route of bans to achieve this seems like a dangerous shortcut.

The question of consent in artificial insemination

Artificial insemination, an advanced scientific technique to breed more cows without having to go through the trouble of mating, is not without its ethical limitations. The brutal handling of cows during the procedure, which involves inserting a hand and an injection rod inside their genitalia, is nothing short of "rape" according to some animal welfare activists.

Interestingly, jallikattu supporters stand in favour of natural mating of cows with bulls in their own time and environment. The irony is inescapable that the supposedly "barbaric" sport of jallikattu does more for the natural, safe and painless advancement of cattle breeds than any scientific technique aimed only at numbers.

The people against the sport of jallikattu who have raised the question of consent have to understand the apathy and indifference characterising this technique of artificial insemination.

Conservation in our neighbourhoods

Be it economics or business or conservation, the importance of native breeds is undeniable. The case of Chandran Master of Kerala who broke the "law" to save cattle is one such instance. He is now revered as a saviour of the Vechur breed that was nearing extinction. We have to listen to what he asserts about low costs in terms of maintenance, longevity in terms of output in order to understand the stability that the native breeds promise the farmer community.

The supposedly "barbaric" sport of jallikattu does more for the natural, safe and painless advancement of cattle breeds than any scientific technique aimed only at numbers.

The case of Gir bulls in Gujarat is also an example of how our ignorance regarding the conservation of native breeds could end up having a negative impact both in terms of economics and species diversity. The edge that we have is the sport of Jallikattu, which will serve as the bedrock for the entire system to thrive upon.

Which milk to drink?

Several studies in recent times have shown a steep difference between two types of milk—A1 and A2.

A1 milk has a high presence of both A1 beta-casein and A2 beta-casein, whereas A2 milk contains only A2 beta-casein. Beta-casein is the second most common protein in cow's milk. Even though the A1 and A2 beta-casein differ only by a single amino acid, the change in their characteristics is notable.

Epidemiological evidence from New Zealand suggests the association of A1 beta-casein with higher risks of ischaemic heart disease (restriction in blood supply to tissues). Reports and research papers suggesting a link between A1 beta-casein and Type 1 diabetes, autism and schizophrenia have also been published. The debate on the better milk is still on, as scientists are coming out with new revelations about both types. The market and the general public have already started leaning towards A2 milk.

Our country is blessed with 40 indigenous cattle and 13 buffalo breeds. A report titled "Status of milk protein, β-casein variants among Indian milch animals", by scientists of the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR), Karnal, has stated that amongst our zebu cattle breeds 98.7% produce A2 milk; 100% of our river buffalos produce A2 milk. These numbers tower over the A2 milk production statistics of other breeds in other countries.

Lastly, the Indian government has already started its own research on the benefits of A2 milk under a project titled "Delineating Beta Casein Variants in Indian Cows and Potential Health Implications of A1 and A2 Milk" funded by the National Agricultural Science Fund (NASF) and implemented at the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR).

Tapping into this resource is tied to the conservation of native breeds. In the light of absence or inadequate availability of government support towards conservation, coupled with the presence of a socio-cultural dimension in the sport, jallikattu's importance both in conservation and culture needs to be acknowledged.

In the concluding part of our series, we will share our observations on the protests for jallikattu and the legal hurdles ahead.

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