25/01/2017 6:26 PM IST | Updated 26/01/2017 9:12 AM IST

The Call To Ban PETA Should Worry Everyone

The pro-jallikattu movement has dire consequences, not just for the bulls who are tormented sometimes to death and not just for the more than 5,000 humans who were injured or killed while observing or participating in this blood sport within a span of six years, but also for our nation as a whole.

Thanks to the use of bullying and force by jallikattu advocates to achieve their ends, it seems that many people in India--even good people who know better--are afraid of being criticised to voice an opinion against jallikattu, all while pro-jallikattu protesters have now issued a call to ban People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India--a charity that has spent the last 17 years advocating ahimsa, facilitating free veterinary care for working animals whose owners cannot afford it, and rescuing dogs, monkeys, and even elephants in need, among other activities.

This brings to mind the following quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller about the quiet acceptance of the rise of violence during World War II:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

And now, unsurprisingly, other protesters have started calling for the legalisation of events such as bull and buffalo races, during which animals are often hit with nail-studded sticks; cockfights, in which knives are often tied to roosters' feet to make fights bloodier; and bulbul bird fights, for which birds are trapped and fed intoxicants. Like the cruelties that make up jallikattu, all these horrors are illegal under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, but it seems some feel that any form of cruelty can be justified as "culture" or "tradition" as long as it's been going on for years. Yet take child marriage, widow burning, honour killings of young women, and the oppression of "lower" castes. All these shameful practices may have at one point been described as "culture" or "tradition", but today kind people would agree they belong in the dustbin of history.

Some government ministers appear to be taking heed or at least giving lip service to this outrageous demand to ban a legitimate NGO. PETA India works strictly lawfully to ensure that the country's animal-protection laws are upheld. Banning the group would be akin to banning an NGO that worked legally to protect children from trafficking. We should all be concerned that such an action is being called for.

What kind of country do we want? One in which mob rule decides that might makes right, the enforcement of laws and Supreme Court decisions result in violent protests, polite dissenters (including members of PETA India) are threatened with death, and blatant cruelty is lauded as "culture"? How can we remain silent while bullies call for the dissolution of a lawful organisation with an impeccable record of good deeds? Make no mistake: in such circumstances, any non-governmental organisation or individual in India can face retaliatory action.

A lawless society would be a society on the rails--and one in which everyone is at risk if no one speaks up. Kind people must find the courage to speak out against cruelty and bullying, before it is too late and they, too, have become victims.

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