Jallikattu: Bull taming is cruelty at its best – Gauri Maulekhi

Gauri Maulekhi“The Constitution of India says that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures. Jallikattu, bull races and bull fights goes against this constitutional requirement of all Indian citizens. … ‘Tradition’ is never a sufficient justification for cruelty, and a cruel tradition should never be allowed to define a culture. Traditions, like everything else, can—and must—evolve. Times and sensibilities have changed, and these events are an inhumane and archaic ritual that has no place in the 21st century.” – Gauri Maulekhi

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiIn its judgment dated 7 May 2014, the Supreme Court stated: “We, therefore, hold that Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is right in its stand that Jallikattu, bullock-cart race and such events per-se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and hence we uphold the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government, consequently, bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the State of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.” In its judgment the Supreme Court also categorically held that Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change cannot allow Jallikattu or bull races and cannot modify the notification dated 11 July 2011 (whereby performances by bulls had been banned) without taking the Animal Welfare Board of India’s (AWBI)—an advisory body under the same ministry—view with respect to the same. The ministry hasn’t taken any opinion of the AWBI, while rushing to allow these cruel sports.

In the past, from 2008 to 2014, the special conditions of the Supreme Court regulating Jallikattu were brazenly flouted at all the events which were inspected by the Animal Welfare Board of India. The evidence gathered during the inspection proved that no regulation can or will protect bulls from misery or people from injuries. The findings revealed that Jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals and is a threat to human participants, spectators and any police or government representative assigned to monitor an event.

Almost every bull, who was forced to participate endured suffering and pain and was dragged into the queue and the vadi vasals [arena entrance chutes] by his nose ropes to being hit, poked, bitten and deliberately terrified. In order to force the bulls into and out of the vadi vasals, each one must endure unmitigated suffering. Although the Supreme Court had placed emphasis on no harm coming to the animals, the reality was that cruelty to animals was inescapably part of Jallikattu. Bulls are beaten, poked, prodded, harassed and jumped on by numerous people. They have their tails bitten and twisted, and suspicious liquids (likely alcohol) are forced down their throats before they are dragged into the vadi vasals.

In just over four years, from 2010 to 2014, at least 1,100 people have been injured due to Jallikattu-type events, and 17 people have died. However, these figures were quoted by the media, the original figures are bound to be higher.

During bull races, all the bulls, who were forced to compete in the races, were subjected to abject cruelty, including being beaten, having irritants rubbed into their mouths, being yanked by nose ropes (causing their noses to bleed), being subjected to a torture device called a kela and having their tails bitten, twisted and pulled. Bull racing is inherently cruel, as bulls can’t be forced to run without agitating, frightening or hurting them, and enforcing race regulations is impractical. In the 2014 judgement the Supreme Court judgment also ruled that cruelty is inherent in these events, as bulls are not anatomically adapted for such races.

AWBI inspections documented cruelty to buffaloes, used in Kambala events in 2014, which was allowed through an interim order by Karnataka High Court, under certain regulations. The inspection found violations of the 2014 judgment of Supreme Court and several sections of the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Rules there under. The findings include buffalo used in racing not being registered with the AWBI, drivers and animal handlers not possessing certificates for transportation of animals, buffalo having two or three tight-fitting thick nose ropes inserted through a hole in the nasal septum (which were constantly pulled and yanked, causing tremendous distress and pain) and buffalo with nose rings and plastic coverings on nose ropes causing pain and distress. During the race, the buffalo were subjected to violent acts, including being hit on the body, slapped on the face and having their tails pulled. Many were forced to participate in the race throughout the night, and after the race the animals were frothing at the mouth and salivating heavily because of severe dehydration and exhaustion.

During bull fights, eight bulls are typically used in each round: two bulls are brought together and surrounded by a ring of spectators. The bulls’ horns are sharpened to ensure that every charge will cause bloody gashes and deep puncture wounds in the other animal’s flesh. The round ends when one of the bulls is either killed or manages to flee. The survivors of each round fight each other while spectators bet on the outcome. The “winner” is the last bull left alive—but by then, the bull’s injuries are often so severe that he is typically sent to slaughter. Bull fights are in direct violation of Sections 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and the Supreme Court judgment and still it is unfortunate that Goa government taking initiative to legalize Dhirio, the bloody bull fights.

The plan of the Central government to amend the law while giving excuses like tradition and culture is purely to attract voters in Tamil Nadu and other states and it is ignoring the Supreme Court’s judgment which stated that if culture and tradition are at variance with the law enacted by Parliament, the law will take precedence over culture and tradition. The initiative of the Bharatiya Janata Party governments to prohibit cow slaughter and ban beef, have limited practical effect on the butchering of cows, as their progeny, the bulls, will continue to suffer in the name of culture, tradition, and entertainment, until they are butchered for meat.

It is high time to understand that cruelty is not limited to just slaughter, but includes all types of unnecessary suffering induced on animals and the torture they are subjected to for the sake of human entertainment, and is explicitly explained in the PCA Act. Though the cow slaughter ban doesn’t prevent the torture of cows and progenies, and doesn’t extend to bulls and buffaloes, the initiatives of the Central Government to legalize Jallikattu, bull races or Kambala and bull fights or Dhirio is a huge and disastrous step backward against the values of this country for compassion and animal protection.

The Constitution of India says that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures. Jallikattu, bull races and bull fights goes against this constitutional requirement of all Indian citizens and contravenes the PCA Act. The safety of participants and spectators is also put at tremendous risk. “Tradition” is never a sufficient justification for cruelty, and a cruel tradition should never be allowed to define a culture. Traditions, like everything else, can – and must – evolve. Times and sensibilities have changed, and these events are an inhumane and archaic ritual that has no place in the 21st century. The government should be rather supporting any legislation aimed at saving animals, protecting their quality of life and provide them fundamental rights.

Is the government going to restart Sati and Thugee as well. These are also part of India’s traditions. On one hand this government says that they are pro-cow and have banned the selling of its meat. Is the bull not part of the cow family? – Firstpost, 30 December 2015

» Gauri Maulekhi is an animal rights activist in New Delhi.


The bull's horn was broken in Avaniapuram on 15 January, 2012.

A man rubs chillies into the nostrils of a bull in Palamedu on 16 January, 2012.

An organiser pokes a bull with a curved, sharp metal object inside the pen in Alanganallur on 16 January, 2014.

Bull owners and tamers force a yellow-coloured liquid down the throat of a bull at Avaniapuram on 14 January, 2014.

A man bites a bull's tail inside the bull pen in Avaniapuram on 14 January, 2014.

A bull-tamer pulls a bull's tail in the arena in Alanganallur on 17 January, 2012.

» All images via Firstpost


9 Responses

  1. then what abt people rushing to hold the hump is it not cruelty ????
    and people get hurt or die when holding the hump is it not cruel??? think we hv to be human first…


  2. The Pongal cowboys should be patient. NDA government will soon reverse its position. It is a party of mummy’s boys with long slogans and few principles. It will give into the bull tormentors whatever the court says. Just wait and see.


  3. There is no hypocrisy. Many animal rights groups campaign against animal slaughter (see the dozens of videos on YouTube). But laws are different. Killing animals for food is not the same as torturing animals for fun.

    Internet commentators always have an opinion. But they don’t always have the facts.


  4. Why is it that none of these animal rights groups ever target meat eating and slaughterhouses? Rearing and killing animals for food is far more cruel to animals than Jallikattu. I find the hypocrisy of animal rights activists appalling.


  5. Timeline: Jallikattu Ban And Controversy – News18.com – January 12, 2017

    The Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain a petition on lifting the ban on Jallikattu is latest addition to events surrounding the bull-taming sport. Below is a timeline of how the controversy around the ban of the sport.

    – 2011: The Environment Ministry added bulls to its 1991 notification banning the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs.

    – April 2014: Emphasising on the “historic, cultural and religious significance of the event”, Centre allows use of bull in Jallikattu, by amending the list of animals prohibited from being trained for performances.

    – May 7, 2014: SC passed a landmark judgment in favour of Peta & the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) clarifying that bulls must not be used in Jallikattu, bull races, bullfights or any other type of performance.

    – Jan 7, 2016: Centre revokes ban on Jallikattu through a notification that mentions that this exemption is subject to the condition that bulls are treated properly and not subjected to cruelty.

    – Jan 11, 2016: Centre’s notification allowing bull taming sport challenged in SC by PETA & a Bengaluru-based NGO.

    – Jan 12, 2016: SC stays Centre’s notification allowing Jallikattu & issued notice to the MoEF and Tamil Nadu on petitions filed by various bodies including AWBI.

    – Nov 9, 2016: Questioning the centre for its notification on allowing the use of bulls in events like Jallikattu, the SC said India cannot “import roman gladiator type sport”.

    – Nov 16, 2016: SC dismissed the Tamil Nadu’s plea to lift the ban on jallikattu in the state, saying it finds no ground to allow the state for the bull taming sport.

    – Dec 1, 2016: SC questioned the Centre for its 2016 notification allowing use of bulls in events like Jallikattu, saying that its 2014 verdict banning the use of the animals cannot be “negated”.

    – Jan 9, 2017: TN CM O Panneerselvam requested PM Modi to pass an ordinance to allow the bull-taming sport of Jallikattu during the pongal festival this year.

    – Jan 11, 2017: AIADMK general secretary VK Sasikala wrote a letter to PM Modi seeking promulgation of an ordinance for conduct of the bull taming sport Jallikattu.

    – Jan 12, 2017: SC that it will not be able to give verdict on allowing the bull taming sport by January 14, 2017, when the harvest festival will be held.


  6. Supreme Court turns down plea to allow bull-taming sport Jallikattu before Pongal – TNN – Times of India – Jan 12, 2017

    NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a plea seeking to allow the controversial sport Jallikattu played during Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu.

    A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi told a group of lawyers, who requested for the verdict, that it is unfair to ask the bench to pass an order.

    The apex court, however, said that the draft of judgement has been prepared but it was not possible to deliver it before Saturday when Jallikattu is to be organised.

    The court had reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging Centre’s notification allowing the sport.

    In 2014, the court had banned Jallikattu on grounds of animal cruelty. The order, however, didn’t go down well with Tamil Nadu political parties.

    Last year, SC had dismissed the plea of the state government seeking review of its 2014 judgement that banned bulls for Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.

    The apex court had also earlier declared Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 as constitutionally void, being violative or Article 254(1) of the Constitution.

    On January 8, last year the Centre had issued a notification lifting ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu with certain restrictions, which was challenged in the apex court by Animal Welfare Board of India, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, a Bangalore-based NGO and others.


  7. See paragraph two in the article above. The Supreme Court gave guidelines to protect the bulls, the bull tamers, and the spectators from injury but they were brazenly flouted by the Jallikattu players themselves—and their wealthy sponsors: there is very big money riding on this so-called traditional sport which is why there is so much noise about its ban right now.

    A new law will not help because nobody associated with Jallikattu is going to follow the rules.

    The Pongal cowboys and their high-rolling sponsors have only themselves to blame for the court ban.


  8. I completely agree with the view of Gauri Maulekhi of animal cruelty.
    we have to make a law to stop the cruelty happening in Jallikattu, not the Jallikattu itself.

    it is like saying, divorces are bad, better stop the marriage.


  9. Jallikattu: Tamil Nadu government urges Centre to promulgate ordinance – PTI – The New Indian Express – 9 January 2017

    CHENNAI: Amidst growing chorus for holding the bull taming sport of Jallikattu this year, Tamil Nadu government today urged the Centre to consider promulgating an ordinance for “removing the legal impediments” to enable the conduct of the sport next week in the state.

    Chief Minister O Panneerselvam wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying “considering the groundswell of sentiment and support for the conduct of Jallikattu all over Tamil Nadu, this is an issue on which the government of India must act with maximum despatch.”

    “Given that Pongal festival, which holds great importance to the people of Tamil Nadu, is less than a week away and Jallikattu is an integral part of the Pongal festivities, considering the urgency of the issue, Government of India should consider promulgating an ordinance removing the legal impediments, enabling the conduct of Jallikattu during Pongal, 2017,” he said in the letter.

    Panneerselvam recalled that both he and his predecessor, the late J Jayalalithaa, had put forth a demand to Modi that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests “should clearly denotify” bulls as performing animals from a 2011 notification by the Ministry.

    The other demand was to “suitably amend Section 11(3) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 by introducing a new clause ‘f’ in sub-section (3) of Section 11 specifically exempting Jallikattu in addition to other exemptions already provided in the Act,” he said.

    However, there has been “no action yet from government of India” on the aforesaid suggestions, the Chief Minister said.

    The Supreme Court in November last had dismissed the plea of the state government, seeking review of its 2014 judgement banning use of bulls for jallikattu events in the state.

    Political parties, including DMK, have been pressing the Centre and state government to take steps to hold the sport coinciding with Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival, this year.

    Protests have also been held across the state, including here, by Jallikattu supporters, demanding that the sport be held this year coinciding with Pongal.

    Panneerselvam told Modi that bulls meant for jallikattu are reared exclusively for the event and are embraced by able bodied youth during the sport.

    “Jallikattu is deeply ingrained as part of the cultural tradition of Tamil Nadu as a sport popular among warriors since the Sangam era and this 2,000 year old traditional sport finds mention in the ancient Tamil text Silapathigaram,” he said.

    Jallikattu was “inextricably” linked to rural and agrarian customs and had religious significance, with families donating bulls to temples in fulfillment of vows, he said.

    It also addressed the cause of conservation of native germplasm since bulls with excellent physical attributes are reared, Panneerselvam said.

    “Further, bulls are not harmed or physically tortured during Jallikattu,” he insisted.

    The Chief Minister said the ban against jallikattu “has caused widespread resentment and general disappointment among the people of Tamil Nadu, particularly in the rural areas, since Jallikattu is intertwined with the religious and social cultural ethos of Tamil society.”

    He recalled that Jayalalithaa had in 2015 requested Centre to introduce a bill in an extended Parliament session or in a special one to amend “the relevant provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and any other relevant laws to enable the conduct of Jallikattu.”


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