21/07/2016 12:01 PM IST | Updated 22/07/2016 8:52 AM IST

Clearing Up All The Bull Around Jallikattu

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When the world condemned Japan for slaughtering whales for meat, the Japanese whaling industry claimed it was actually killing them for "scientific research". They were laughed out of the international conservation community. Similarly, when trophy hunters who kill African lions and other wildlife make the claim that they are shooting some animals in order to help other ones, they're torn to shreds in the media. Now that the Supreme Court of India has confirmed a ban on Jallikattu -- a cruel male entertainment popular in some parts of Tamil Nadu, in which bulls are deliberately chased, frightened and tormented -- proponents of the "sport" are claiming it is somehow essential to the preservation of native cattle breeds. What a bunch of bull!


Bulls, strong as they are, are prey animals, so they are naturally skittish. Jallikattu exploits this by placing them in a terrifying situation in which they are forced to flee those who are acting like predators. As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Indiahas carefully documented, they become so panicked by the menacing mob of men who chase them, yell at them, and seem totally out of control that they slip and fall, run into barriers and traffic, and even jump off cliffs, desperately trying to escape. This has led to broken bones and even death.

Some proponents make the facetious claim that "stud bulls" are reared by people specifically for Jallikattu and that bulls who win are in greater demand.

As if to show how little respect they have for bulls or the law, participants purposely disorient the bulls beforehand by force-feeding them alcohol; twist and even bite their tails; stab and jab them with sickles, spears, knives, and sticks, some even studded with nails; cause them intense pain by yanking on their nose ropes, sometimes tearing right through the septum; and punch, jump on, and drag them to the ground. It is a shocking display that has caused India international shame. Humans also regularly become victims of Jallikattu. Between 2010 and 2014, approximately 1,100 injuries to participants and spectators were reported by the media as a result of Jallikattu-type events, and 17 people even died -- including a child.

The fact is that cattle breeds in India have been changing for years as a result of many different factors, even during the decades when Jallikattu was permitted. They have always been manipulated to suit humans' changing "needs" -- such as to increase milk production. But changes in breed notwithstanding, domesticated cattle are as unlikely as domesticated cats to ever be on the endangered species list.

Some proponents make the facetious claim that "stud bulls" are reared by people specifically for Jallikattu and that bulls who win are in greater demand. Stopping Jallikattu does not stop bulls from being used as studs, and a veterinarian can easily inform farmers which bull is the healthiest with far greater accuracy than by judging the outcome of a Jallikattu event. As for the other myth that small farmers can't afford to keep stud bulls, each village has a common temple bull that is used to impregnate village cows. That practice will continue even with a Jallikattu ban. And while some bulls have been used for Jallikattu, many more are still used as draught animals in transport and farming.

An article in The Indian Express revealed:

"No tickets are sold for Jallikattu or bullock-cart races... Jallikattu events do not offer any major monetary benefits, and prizes are mostly a dhoti, towel, betel leaves, bananas and token cash — that is rarely more than Rs 101 — on a silver plate. Mixer-grinders, refrigerators and furniture have been added to the list of prizes at some events over the last few years."

So, if there is no monetary gain, why are pro-Jallikattu supporters whining that because of the ban, bulls are now being sold for slaughter? In fact, farmers have not been given any increased incentive to offload their bulls any earlier.

The Times of India quoted a resident of Madurai district, as saying, "Usually the Jallikattu bulls are pledged to God and we consider them sacred". But the video of what is done to these "sacred" bulls would make Lord Krishna blanch, and if they are truly considered sacred, selling them for slaughter should never even be considered!

Those pushing for a return to Jallikattu neglect to mention that many bulls did, in fact, end up at the slaughterhouse...

Those pushing for a return to Jallikattu neglect to mention that many bulls did, in fact, end up at the slaughterhouse when it was allowed -- when they were injured in training or during the events (which happened often) or when they were deemed no longer useful. Bulls have also been killed during the events themselves, including one who, in his panic, ran directly into a bus.

Jallikattu has been properly recognised as illegal, in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Communities which used bulls for Jallikattu must accept this fact and come up with ways to amuse themselves that do not involve the torture of bulls, activities that genuinely honour them and, if they desire, that keep them alive but without the cruelty that's been deemed unacceptable by the Supreme Court.

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