The state government has decided to set up a committee to study the running capacity of various breeds of bulls and bullocks in comparison to horses. The move comes in the backdrop of the government’s keenness to restart bullock cart races in the state, which has repeatedly been denied by the judiciary. The latest verdict by the Bombay High Court earlier this month relied on the assumption a bull’s physical make and physiology do not make it suitable for racing.
The government plans to lay a scientific ground to counter the popular notion that bullocks are not meant for racing. “The government had for long been contemplating to set up a committee to study the physiology of bulls and horses, their running and load carrying capacity. We are also keen to study the physiological and biochemical changes that take place in these animals when they run,” said an order from the animal husbandry department.
The nine-member committee will study the anatomy and physiology of different breeds of bulls and bullocks compared to horses, as well as their running capacities. It has also been asked to submit expert opinion on technical aspects like anatomical, physiological, biochemical, clinical and surgical interventions and aid for bulls and bullock as a race animal.
Bullock cart races were banned in Maharashtra after the Supreme Court declared the race as violative of the provisions of the central Act in 2014. After the Tamil Nadu government enacted a law to regulate jallikattu (taming of the bull), there was a demand to revive bullock races in Maharashtra. The state Assembly in April this year passed a legislation for resumption of bullock cart races across the state. The Bill titled ‘The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Bill’ was passed unanimously with the support of all parties. It was promulgated by the then President Pranab Mukherjee in July days before leaving office.
As per the amendment, bullock cart races could be held with the prior permission of the district collector concerned by ensuring no pain or suffering is caused to the animal.
The High Court this month, however, refused to vacate its stay restraining the Maharashtra government from granting permission for bullock cart races, observing bulls were not anatomically designed to participate in races and would be subjected to cruelty if used as a performing animal.
The bench dismissed the state’s submission that it had amended the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Maharashtra Amendment) Act 2017 to ensure bulls participating in such races are not subjected to any physical pain or cruelty.
“Can a law change the anatomy of an animal and make it a performing animal? No matter what safeguards you implement, the fact that bulls are different from performing animals such as horses, dogs or parrots, they will be subjected to cruelty if used as performing animals,” said the bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar.