Ending sadism

The Supreme Court has taken a welcome decision to ban the use of bulls across the country in jallikattu (bull fighting) and bull racing events.

The decision is an important one. Not only does the ruling provide protection to bulls from human cruelty but also, it seeks to elevate the rights of animals by calling on Parliament to confer constitutional rights on them. Jallikattu, a popular bullfighting festival in Tamil Nadu, was banned by the Madras high court some years ago. The SC upheld that decision but reversed it four days later permitting its practice on the condition that certain guidelines were followed to protect the bulls, the fighters and spectators from harm. In 2011, the Tamil Nadu government introduced a law to regulate jallikattu. However, Jallikattu events continued to be marked by violence and sadism, forcing the SC to act to ban its practice.

Proponents of jallikattu often argue that this is intrinsic to Tamil culture. Banning jallikattu, they argue, amounts to state interference in cultural practices.  However, the jallikattu bullfight traditionally practiced was a fight between one man and one bull. The ‘single bull versus hundreds of men’ event seen today is of recent origin. Even if today’s Jallikattu is a centuries old tradition, its practice is indefensible as it celebrates cruelty, human sadism and perversity. In their desperate bid to grab prizes tied to the bull’s horns, Jallikattu contestants unleash terrible violence on the animals. Bulls are punched and dragged to the ground, even beaten with sticks, sickles and knives. This is not a ‘taming sport’ as some claim. Jallikattu organizers are known to spray chilli powder on bulls to make them more aggressive, so that the fight’s ‘entertainment’ value increases. The court has done well to halt this blood sport.

While the 2008 ban involved the jallikattu only, the recent ban is larger in scope. It includes bullock-cart racing and bull racing as well. The court has acted sternly to halt practices that not only pit the bull in bloody confrontations but also those that put them in competitive situations. Hopefully the SC action will serve as an eye-opener to the terrible treatment we subject animals too. The battering of bulls during a jallikattu is as appalling as forcing a wild animal to perform in a circus. Whether it is beating dogs, teasing monkeys or using cattle to carry heavy loads, our inhumane treatment of animals must stop. They deserve better.

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