After the Maharashtra government passed legislation lifting the ban on bullock cart races in the state, stating the amended Act will ensure participating animals are not harmed and violators would be penalised, animal rights organisation PETA, which has alleged that bulls are treated cruelly during the races, said it will challenge the Bill. Farmers, who have practised bullock cart racing as a part of their tradition and culture, had been protesting against the ban since it was enforced in the state in 2014 following the Supreme Court order.
Animal rights organisations are against the lifting of the ban, and allege that bulls are hit with nail-studded sticks during races and have their nose ropes yanked. Also, they allege that bulls’ tails are bitten and broken, and they are allegedly forced to run past the point of exhaustion, which causes many to collapse. Dr Manilal Valliyante, Director of Veterinary Affairs, PETA India, said, “This new fashion of justifying any cruelty to animals by simply labelling it tradition, whether it is to deliberately terrify bulls for Jallikattu or to whip animals for bullock cart races, is one that urgently needs to be put out of style.”
India, he said, has long been admired for its “true culture” of kindness to animals, but now, as the rest of the world moves towards passing laws to ban bullfighting and the use of animals in circuses, allowing bullock cart races “shows Maharashtra has chosen to take a hypocritical, backward stance simply to please a few”. PETA will study the amendment allowing bull races and challenge it in an appropriate court of law, he said. On Thursday, the Maharashtra government passed the legislation amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960) to ensure there is no injury to the participating animals in a bullock cart race. As per the legislation, the organisers violating the rules will face up to three years of imprisonment or have to pay up to Rs 5 lakh as fine.
Jitesh Jotwani, a member of the organisation People for Animals, alleges that the lifting of the ban portrays the “hypocritical attitude” of the government. “On one hand, the BJP government is protecting and worshipping cows and on the other, they are being cruel to the male species of the breed,” he alleged. According to Meher Mathrani, Animal Welfare Officer (H), Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), resuming bullock races whether in Maharashtra, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu along with Jallikattu is illegal. The Supreme Court, she says, has for years deliberated on this issue and has had opinions brought in from experts before passing its judgment, she claimed.
“The state governments must respect the apex court’s decision. By tabling this in the state assembly and passing a Bill based on votebanks and cultural whims, the state government has clearly shown complete apathy towards the animal these people claim to love and respect. On one side, the government wants to protect the cow but on the other side, they torture and traumatise the male of the same species. The government advertises progress and growth and in the same breath supports cruelty openly. It’s high time politicians stopped making a mockery of the judiciary by this sort of open defiance to a very sound judgment,” she claimed. Pune-based animal rights activist Phiroze Pundol says that as long as the bulls are not injured in the race and are getting good care, there’s nothing wrong with bullock cart racing, which, he feels, is an ancient sport just like horse riding.