The Central Government on January 7, 2016 allowed the use of bulls in Jallikattu in the name of tradition despite Supreme Court banning it in July 2011.
It appears the Government capitulated to populist pressure to revoke the ban. Its desultory interest in animal welfare is evident from its notification.
In Jallikattu, bull-tamers chase and launch themselves onto hapless bulls. In Kambala, two pairs of buffaloes are tethered to a yoke and made to race in a slushy track. Jallikattu involved heinous instances of animal cruelty for the sake of entertainment. The bulls’ ears were cut to purportedly enhance their hearing. Many bulls had their tails and humps pulled and twisted, resulting in bone injuries. They were made to stand for hours without food and water.
They were goaded with sticks and sharp instruments. Irritants were rubbed onto their eyes and skin to agitate them and in some cases, were believed to have been force-fed alcohol.
The fact remains bull races are a form of abuse. They are gentle, peaceful animals, not prone to aggression unless provoked. As prey animals, their auditory senses are sharp and hence, they are sensitive to loud sounds. In the presence of a perceived threat, they are known to exhibit a fight or flight response. The violence forces them to flee into the arena. Owing to their bulk, bulls are unsuited to run at high speeds for long distances.
The fact that the Centre brazenly encourages such practices makes a mockery of the country’s established laws, reducing them to mere words with no impact.
The apex court stated that when culture and tradition are at variance with the law enacted by Parliament, the law would take precedence. In its notification the Centre stated that they will be regulated as per provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, ostensibly to uphold the court judgment. According to Section 3 of the Act, persons in charge of animals are responsible for their well-being. The Section 11(1)(a) bans inflicting of pain on any animal, 11(1)(m)(ii) prohibits inciting an animal to fight for entertainment. By this standard all forms of bull races are illegal. They violate the internationally recognized five freedoms of animals alluded to in the SC judgment:
• freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition
• freedom from fear and distress
• freedom from physical and thermal discomfort
• freedom from pain, injury and disease
• freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.
It should be noted that opposition to the notification doesn’t stem from mawkish support of animal welfare; rather it questions the human behaviour of subjecting animals to pain and suffering for their entertainment. As humans, we pride ourselves on our ability to reason; as a nation we pride ourselves on our principles of Ahimsa.
It is the responsibility of every right-thinking citizen to seriously try and end practices which perpetrate animal cruelty.
(Humane Society International/India is the Indian chapter of HIS, an international organization working to protect all animals including those in laboratories, farm animals, companion animals and wildlife.)