16/01/2017 2:35 PM IST | Updated 17/01/2017 8:50 AM IST

How Misogyny And Lies Define The Pro-Jallikattu Movement

I’ve even received rape threats.

Getty Images

Unable to defend the illegal torment of bulls for Jallikattu validly, the pro-jallikattu movement has resorted to bullying, making misogynistic statements and lying. This comes in the form of trolling, misleading the media in interviews, sharing memes designed to incite harassment, and making other despicable personal attacks—particularly against women (including calling for me to be raped) as well as against celebrities (like Trisha Krishnan), who are known to be kind to animals but have not had anything to do with the campaign against Jallikattu. All this is to garner backing and support from people who are easily persuaded. This fortifies the view that such men—and they are invariably men—are bullies and cowards who set out to harm any living being they can.

Pro-jallikattu advocates have harassed me... by crediting false quotes to me, making sexist remarks, and using my personal photographs in pathetic attempts to tarnish my character...

Jallikattu advocates who play the victim card (although the bulls are clearly the real victims here) would have you think that the only cruelty to animals that has ever been stopped in India is that which occurs during jallikattu. Yet the same laws that prohibit Jallikattu—which per the Honourable Supreme Court are the Environment Ministry 2011 ban on the use of bulls in performances and the 57-year-old Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960—also outlaw bull races including kambala, bullfights, and other cruel spectacles that were once common in other states. Hunting wild animals, slaughtering or sacrificing them outside a licensed slaughterhouse, dogfighting, cockfighting, using certain species of animals in circus acts and film productions, and more are also illegal in India. But of course, just because other cruelty exists (and where it exists, the animal-protection movement is working to stop it), it doesn't mean that cruelty to bulls should continue.

A spectacle in which the inherent purpose is to terrify a bull to the point that he often slips, falls, and even breaks his bones or sometimes dies is indefensible. Therefore, pro-jallikattu advocates, unable to make their point through any mature and honest means, have resorted to falsely claiming that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India—which is not a law-making body but whose duty as an animal rights organisation is to help ensure that India's animal-protection laws are enforced—is foreign, an advocate of artificial insemination, a promoter of western breeds of cattle, run by multi-national corporations, supported by the western dairy industry, backed by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, spending crores on lawyers, and making other ridiculous and untrue claims. Anyone who knows anything about PETA India knows that we are a vegan advocacy group that actively campaigns against the cruelty of the dairy industry, including its hideously cruel artificial insemination practices and the routine sending of "useless" male calves to slaughter.

Some Tamil news channels have gone so far as to invite on their shows a pro-jallikattu supporter who calls himself an ex-member of PETA India and falsely claims that we have a corporate agenda. But what these channels don't mention is that anyone can become a member of PETA India with a gift of just ₹1000. It is obvious that such a donation does not make an individual qualified to speak for PETA India nor deeply knowledgeable about our inner workings—and any media outlet that gives such an impression is being blatantly dishonest. In fact, according to a pro-jallikattu website run by a major jallikattu promoter, it can cost anywhere between ₹15 to 40 lakhs to put on just a single jallikattu event. Who, then, do you think has a money-making agenda?

These pro-jallikattu advocates have even harassed me, PETA India's CEO, personally for our group's work to enforce Indian law by creating memes crediting false quotes to me, making sexist remarks, and using my personal photographs in pathetic attempts to tarnish my character as a woman and an animal-protection advocate, including even falsely claiming that I wear leather shoes. Of course, anyone's opinion on my character is irrelevant to the fact that cruelty to bulls is illegal under Indian law, and PETA India provides caring consumers with a list of companies that make vegan, cruelty-free leather shoes like the ones that I am wearing in the circulated photo. PETA India is also known for launching a vigorous campaign against the cruelty of the leather industry in 2000 and for our current efforts in the Supreme Court against the illegal treatment of animals during transport and slaughter.

Jallikattu supporters have been bullying celebrities— especially on social media—with threats and misogynistic statements while demanding that they support cruelty to bulls.

And it doesn't stop there. Jallikattu supporters have been bullying celebrities— especially on social media—with threats and misogynistic statements while demanding that they support cruelty to bulls. The bullying even extends to Tamil citizens and other individuals who speak out on social media against jallikattu. If a star or any other person relents, how can this possibly be considered genuine support?

Jallikattu advocates' attempts to make this issue an unfair fight are not surprising, since bullying is what the animals endure when they're chased by men who pounce on them, bite their tails, force-feed them alcohol and jab them with sticks. It's this bullying that has led to tragedy, including over 5000 injuries and 43 deaths to humans in jallikattu events between 2008 and 2014.

As I recently said in an interview, if people really want to show their strength, I invite them to join PETA India. It takes courage to question societal norms that harm others, strength to stand up for animals, and wit to campaign for their rights. In contrast, there is no brain or muscle power required to be part of a mob that wants to torment animals.

For more information on the truth about PETA and our campaigns to help animals, please see our blog posts here and here.

US Election
The latest polls, breaking news and analysis on the 2020 US presidential election from HuffPost