I am a proud Tamizhan who is against jallikattu and is a long-time supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India. If you're surprised, you shouldn't be.
PETA has always had support from many Tamizhans and, in fact, people from every region of India and of every religion. That's because the group stands for compassion—something that everyone should be able to get behind. It's actually our constitutional duty to be kind to animals—Article 51A(g) in the Constitution of India mandates that it's the responsibility of every Indian citizen to "have compassion for living creatures." To be against kindness to animals is, therefore, un-constitutional, un-Tamilian, and un-Indian.
The purpose of Pongal, when jallikattu is normally conducted, is to give thanks to nature and celebrate life—which isn't something that can be achieved through a violent event...
PETA's stand in favour of compassion has gotten jallikattu supporters riled up. I say "jallikattu supporters", and not Tamizhans, because while these individuals would like the world to think that all Tamizhans support this vile spectacle—and have admittedly persuaded easily influenced people to come out in favour of the event by misleadingly calling it mere "hugging" of bulls and by circulating lies on social media about jallikattu's impact on the population of native cattle and about PETA—many of us know not to take our information from memes. We can think independently, have hearts, and be vehemently against causing bulls harm.
The population of native breeds of cattle in the country is essentially dictated by the dairy industry, not Jallikattu—something that began long before the 2014 Supreme Court verdict confirming a ban on the use of bulls in performances.
Jallikattu takes advantage of bulls' natural nervousness as prey animals by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation in which they are forced to run away from those they rightly perceive as dangerous. Inspectors authorised by the statutory body, the Animal Welfare Board of India, have documented that bulls become so frightened by the menacing mob that they slip, fall, run into barriers and traffic, and even jump off cliffs in desperate attempts to escape. This often leads to severe injuries and even death.
The men who take part in jallikattu would have you think that they are very "manly"—but they even make this cruel "game" easier for themselves by purposely disorienting the bulls. They force-feed them alcohol; twist and bite their tails; stab and jab them with sickles, spears, knives, and sticks; cause them intense pain by yanking their nose ropes; and punch, jump on, and drag them to the ground.
People with a vested interest in jallikattu have gone so far as to attempt to claim that it's part of Tamil tradition, culture and even religion. Tradition it may be, but it's a tradition of attempting to demonstrate machismo, despite the fact that there is nothing macho about hurting animals. As PETA's commitment to doing right by animals in the face of intense opposition by jallikattu supporters shows, it takes strength to stand up for bulls—there is no real muscle required to chase after them like ill-behaved schoolchildren in a mob.
It takes strength to stand up for bulls—there is no real muscle required to chase after them like ill-behaved schoolchildren in a mob.
Culture jallikattu is certainly not. The purpose of Pongal, when jallikattu is normally conducted, is to give thanks to nature and celebrate life—which isn't something that can be achieved through a violent event such as this. Besides, what's so cultured about grown men deliberately taunting animals who become so frightened that they often sustain broken bones in their attempts to escape? And religion it is absolutely not. Hindus commonly worship bulls in temples, honouring Lord Shiva by gently touching the forehead of Nandi's idol. If some miscreants were to enter Lord Shiva's temple and desecrate Nandi's idol, people wouldn't stand for it. Then why support the abuse of real, living bulls?
And it's not only jallikattu which is banned under Indian law—cockfighting, dogfighting, bullfighting, bull racing, and the use of many other species in performances in circuses, film, and more are also banned. While the so-called manly men who cry about jallikattu and play the victim card (sorry, it's the bulls who are the victims, not you) would like people to believe otherwise, these laws are not specific to certain states—they apply nationwide and have nothing to do with targeting culture and everything to do with ending cruelty to animals.
As for the young people who've come out to march in support of Jallikattu—especially when Tamil Nadu faces so many pressing issues—where are your morals and priorities?
The pro-jallikattu mob is hanging on to this cruelty in the same menacing way it hangs on to bulls' backs, as if it's the only thing we Tamizhans have to show for ourselves— and that offends me as a proud citizen of Tamil Nadu. Are we so culturally deficient that we have to clutch on to this archaic, gladiator-style, outright cruel event? Of course not. Tamil culture is rich, kind and warm, and we must not become known worldwide for cruelty.
And as for the young people who've come out to march in support of Jallikattu—especially at a time when Tamil Nadu faces so many other pressing issues, like climate change, water scarcity, bad road conditions, and even cruelty to animals (remember the Chennai medical school students who threw a dog from a roof and the ones from Vellore who brutally tortured and killed a monkey?)—where are your morals and priorities?
I am a young person myself and a man, and I must say that there's no virtue in blindly following those who stand for cruelty to animals and no honour in bullying others, including other species. Tamizhans like me will celebrate Pongal by praying, singing songs, eating vegan sweets, providing offerings to God, adorning bulls with garlands and participating in other peaceful activities.