Jallikattu versus Animal Cruelty
The history of Jallikattu, which was called as Yeru Thazhuvuthal, dates back 1500 years. It is played during the Pongal festival. During the event coins are tied to the bull’s horns. Those who untie the bundle of coins are awarded. The event is considered as matter of pride to the Thevar community in Southern Tamil Nadu. Over the years many people were injured and several people were died.
Time line of jallikattu controversy
- 2008 – The Supreme Court has banned the practice but the order was reversed within few days by the court by declaring that the tradition can be allowed if certain guidelines were followed.
- 2009 – A law was introduced by Tamil Nadu to regulate jallikattu event.
- 2011 – The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification by placing bulls in the list of animals that shall not be permitted to use as performing animals.
- 2014 – The Supreme Court upheld the 2011 notification. Tamil Nadu law was struck down by the court and it banned the event altogether. The court also banned the bullock-cart races in the state of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country. Jallikattu was not organised in 2015.
- 2016 – The Ministry of Environment and Forests modified its 2011 order and permitted jallikattu. This was done against the suggestion of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).
- 2016 – The Supreme Court has stayed the government permission to hold the event.
Arguments by different parties to the controversy
Animal welfare organisations
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) argue that the bulls are tortured physically and mentally for enjoyment. The tradition is violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960. PETA has documented how the bull tails are twisted and fractured; chemicals poured into their eyes, ears are mutilated, and sickles are used to poke the animals.
Jallikattu organisers argue that the practice associated with the village life. No harm or pain is caused to the animals. The bulls are specifically identified and are trained for the event. The event protects certain indigenous breeds of bulls. They argue that the event can be regulated but not banned.
Though the issue is tied to the tradition, it is largely political. The jallikattu played region is dominated by the Thevar community, who are politically powerful. This year being an election year all political parties want to woo the voter by bringing back the sports back.
The court upholds the right to a dignified life for all animals. The court has identified the freedom rights of animals. The court asked the Parliament to elevate the rights of the animals similar to that of constitutional rights.
Analysis: Jallikattu versus Animal Cruelty
The basic question surrounding the controversy of jallikattu is does the sports inflict cruelty on the participating bulls. In various parts of India, one or the other animal species are used as part of either tradition or for entertainment purpose. In that process, the animals are put to torture and in some cases denied their basic needs. In parts of Maharashtra around Pune, yoked pairs of bullocks are forced to race down. Bullfights are conducted illegally in Goa under the name of Dhirio. Goa’s government is now considering legalising it. Many of the annual harvest festivals – Pongal, Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Magh Bihu – includes animal fighting. In Andhra Pradesh, cockfighting is conducted illegally. In Assam, bulbul fights are conducted. Dogfights are popular in Haryana and Punjab. Often these fights also involve illegal betting. Political parties support them to capture the vote base.
India has witnessed progression of rights for various communities be it women or children. Animal rights are the next to be enforced. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act makes it illegal if anyone subjects animals to unnecessary pain or suffering. In many cases, Indian courts have ruled in favour of rights of animals. But now traditionalists want lawmakers to legalise them so that courts cannot intervene. The argument of traditionalists about killing of animals for food has been dealt in the 1960 law on Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Section 11(3) of this act gives exceptions in five categories under the “doctrine of necessity”. It allows killing of animals for food as long as there is no inflicting of unnecessary pain or suffering. The issue of man and animal fight is long- drawn-out one. Under Article 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution, it is our duty to show “compassion for all living creatures”. There are examples in following tradition with modernity. The Arunachal Pradesh’s Nyishi tribes now use fibreglass instead of beaks from hornbill in their headgear.