The Environment Ministry on Thursday issued a notification in the Gazette of India essentially lifting the Supreme Court ban on “events such as Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat”.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has extensively documented these events. During Jallikattu, bulls are deliberately terrified and forced into menacing crowds through various cruel means. They are purposefully disoriented through substances like alcohol; have their tails twisted and bitten; are stabbed and jabbed by sickles, spears, knives or sticks; have their nose ropes painfully yanked; are punched, jumped on and dragged to the ground.
PETA India has also documented frightened bulls breaking their bones or dying in their attempt to flee. Many humans also get injured and in some cases even die from participating in or watching Jallikattu. As calculated from various media reports, from 2010 to 2014, there were approximately 1,100 human injuries and 17 deaths as a result of Jallikattu-like events including that of a child. During races, bulls are often hit with nail-studded sticks.
In its 7th May 2014 judgement, the Supreme Court confirmed a ban on jallikattu, bull races and other uses of bulls for performances and categorically held that the concerned Ministry cannot allow such events and cannot modify the notification dated 11 July 2011 (which banned forcing bulls to perform) without the consent from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). Just last week, the AWBI advised the Ministry not to overturn the Supreme Court judgement. The Court had also ruled that cruelty is inherent in these events, as bulls are not anatomically suited for such races. It observed making bulls participate is subjecting them to unnecessary pain and suffering, and so it was deemed by the Court that such races are not permitted by law. It was further stated by the court that when culture and tradition are at variance with the law enacted by Parliament, the law will take precedence. The recent Gazette of India notification flies in the face of the Supreme Court ruling.
It’s no wonder then that since the news of this notification, essentially overturning the Supreme Court ban on jallikattu, bull races and bullfights broke, PETA India’s phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from compassionate Tamilians, BJP supporters and others who are horrified that the same authorities who claim to care about cow and her progenies are now allowing cruelty to bulls that was already banned by the highest court of India.
The use of bulls in performances was, in fact, banned by the Environment Ministry itself in 2011, and the causing of unnecessary suffering that is inherent in Jallikattu, bull races and bull fights has been illegal since 1960 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
PETA India’s online petition that was earlier urging the government to keep the ban on Jallikattu, bull races and bullfights had been signed by nearly 60,000 people in India alone. A Change.org petition regarding the same that was put up only a few days ago has been signed by over 5,000 people.
The immense public support against Jallikattu and bull races is unsurprising since India’s true culture and tradition is one of kindness, not cruelty. In fact, Article 51-A (g) of the Indian Constitution makes it the mandate of every Indian citizen “to have compassion for living creatures”. And, of course, when a so-called tradition hurts animals or people, it’s the kind that needs to be relegated to the history books like sati and child marriages.
Lifting the protection against cruelty that was afforded to bulls is a black mark on our nation, which has always been looked up to by people around the world for our cultural reverence for animals. Towns in Ecuador, Venezuela, France, Portugal and Colombia have declared themselves to be against bullfighting, and Catalonia, a region in Spain, has banned it. India will now be considered archaic and regressive as sensibilities around the world are changing in favour of animal protection.
Pongal, or the harvest festival, during which Jallikattu spectacles commonly take place, is about expressing gratitude to God for providing us with food and good harvests. Mattu Pongal is supposed to be the celebration of cattle, particularly those who have been forced to work all year round through hunger, thirst and often pain from heavy loads in the fields. They should be given garlands and treats, and worshipped, as they are by many Tamil families at this time. Jallikattu is cruelty, not a form of thanks.
As the famous Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar said, “His soul is free from dread of sins; Whose mercy serveth all beings”. PETA India vows to take its work protect bulls from Jallikattu and bull race cruelty back to the Supreme Court.