Jallikattu ban- The bulls are having the last laugh but not the Tamils

The Jallikattu ban is proving to be a jali kati issue for the average Tamil. While the directly affected party, the bulls, are having a hearty laugh, the issue is a red rag for many Tamils. But, let us understand the basics first.

What is Jallikattu ?

This word refers to the ancient- but still continuing- practice of taming the bulls by embracing them.

Jallikattu ban
Jallikattu means ’embracing the bull’

This practice of jallikattu was in vogue for the past 2,500 years till the day when the Supreme Court banned it a couple of years back. It is mainly the Tamils who indulge in this playful activity where the temple bull is sought to be tamed by the village youth.

The final order regarding the Jaliikattu ban has not been pronounced, yet.

Jallikattu ban
Jallikattu practice engraved on this tablet which is more than 1000 years old

Jallikattu is played on Pongal, a day which marks the the onset of the fresh crop. This sport is a familiar sight in many villages of Tamil Nadu on Pongal but alas, the Supreme Court of India has played a spoilsport.

Though not as violent an activity as the Spanish spectator sport of bull fighting, jallikattu is seen by many as violent and injurious to both the bull as well as to those who try to tame it.

Watch this video on jallikattu;

Why the Jallikattu ban?

The Jallikattu ban comes out mainly because some organizations like PETA have argued that this practice is cruel to the animal. The poor bull sometimes gets injured or dies because of its manhandling by the spirited temple youth.

There are very few statistics that support the claim of the animal welfare organisations, though. Even PETA says that in the years between 2010 to 2014, 17 deaths of humans have been reported. In the same period, more than 1000 injuries to the humans have been reported.

PETA is silent on the number of deaths of the bulls because of jallikattu.

Why is jallikattu cruel to the bulls?

Animal rights activists say that the reaction of the bulls to the human provocation leads to the animals’ injuries. The bulls are fed on opium and other intoxicating substances. The animals are then led to confined spaces and later provoked by beating them with weapons. The weapons could be sticks, chains, bamboo rods, anything. The frightened animal, upon being beaten, tries to escape from its surroundings. Often, it climbs over the railings or breaks open the doors in order to escape.

Many a time, the frightened bull runs on the roads and highways nearby, terrifying the vehicle drivers. If all this is not cruelty, then what is it, argue the animal rights activists.

Why not jallikattu?

Supporters of this ancient support mainly rest their argument on three pillars.

Their first logic is that it is an ancient sport and very much a part of the culture continuum. Yes, prevent cruelty to the animal but banning the sport altogether is like cutting the head because of a headache.

The second logic is that jallikattu helps in conserving the sturdiness of the animals. Only the sturdy animals are allowed to take part in the festival and once it is over, these animals are used to breed with the cows. We think it is a sane argument.

Another reason why jallikattu should be continued is that this sport helps in drawing tourist footfalls. Fair point, we say.

Ban or not?

While animal welfare is the need of the hour, we feel that the honorable Supreme Court must also  focus on those festivals that lead to extreme cruelty to animals. In those festivals, animals are bled to death and it is easy to imagine the extreme pain which the poor animals endure.

In the case of jallikattu, the Supreme Court should not take a final view of the matter. The final judgement should be nuanced and have a sense of fairness.

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