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By Nithin Sridhar

Tamil Nadu’s traditional sport of bull embracing- ‘Jallikattu’ is again making headlines everywhere. The Supreme Court on Tuesday put an interim stay on the central government notification that had effectively reversed the 2014 SC ban on the sport.

While the decision of the SC is being celebrated by the animal activists, people from Tamil Nadu have expressed extreme disappointment. Many people who have closely studied the issue have also criticized the ban on Jallikattu and have pointed out how the ban is based on ignorance and insensitivity towards traditional Indian practices.

Animal rights activists had for long branded the sports as being ‘violent’ and cruel towards the animals. The SC had banned the sport in 2014 citing similar reasons. Many activists have gone so far to equate Jallikattu with the Spanish Bull fighting which is infamous for its cruelty.

But, this equation of Jallikattu with Bullfighting is anything but true. A little research into the practice of Jallikattu will reveal how Jallikattu is neither cruel (except a few isolated incidents of injury) towards the bulls, nor is remotely similar to the Spanish Bullfighting.

Jallikattu– the game of bull-hugging

Jallikattu is one of the oldest sports in the world, with some dating it back to at least 2000 BC. It is an inseparable part of Tamil Nadu’s rural culture and tradition. Though, it is often called as ‘Bull-taming’ sport, it is in reality, at least as it is practiced today, a bull hugging or bull-embracing sport.

The rules of the game are simple, a trained bull is let into an arena where the participating persons will try to catch the bull and hold on it. No ropes or other tools are allowed. Also, the participants are allowed to hold the bull only by its humps. Holding necks or horns are not allowed. If the participants manage to hold the humps till the finish line is reached, then they are declared winners. Otherwise, the bull is declared as the winner. Additionally, only one participant is usually allowed to hold onto the hump at a time.

Thus, it is a game of whether a person will become successful in holding onto the bull without any external support, or whether the bull will be successful in getting rid of him. These stud bulls are raised and trained to participate in these sports. One can easily compare the sport with sports like horse racing for example.

The participant is seen holding onto the hump of the Bull while the bull runs. Photo:

The participant is seen holding onto the hump of the Bull while the bull runs. Photo:

More importantly, Jallikattu does not involve any use of sticks, ropes, or other tools that would cause real harm to the bulls. The Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 has stipulated very strict guidelines that ensure that bulls are not exploited. Apart from creating an elaborate procedure with checks and balances for granting permission to Jallikattu event, various other measures include: providing double barricades and fixing up of the gallery for the spectators; holding proper examination of the bulls before the sport, by Government experts, to ensure that the bulls are free from diseases and that no drugs have been administered to them; arrange for proper police protection, and medical and veterinary services at the event.

Therefore, the sport of Jallikattu as such cannot be construed as cruelty against animals. The format of the game has been designed such that there is no cruelty towards the bulls. This is not to suggest that there are absolutely zero injuries in this sport. Some incidents of injuries are bound to happen, but such minor incidents are present in almost all sports including cricket. But, such occasional cases of injuries cannot be construed as acts of cruelty towards Bulls or the participants.

The violent game of Spanish Bullfighting

On the other hand, the notorious Spanish Bullfighting is by its very nature very violent and cruel towards the Bulls. Here there is no competition between human participants and the bull regarding who will win the race. Instead, the bull is goaded into attacking the participants, so that they can strike it and finally kill it. By the end of the sport, the bull is almost always killed.

Violent Spanish Bullfighting. Photo: Youtube

Violent Spanish Bullfighting. Photo: Youtube

The Bullfighting happens in 3 stages and it is not a man v/s bull contest. Instead, the ‘matador’, the main slayer of the bull, will have six assistants and they together maim, injure, and finally kill the bulls in stages. First, the matador observes and assesses the bull, next the two ‘picadors’ (the lancers) pierce the neck muscles of the bull, thus causing the first loss of blood and weakening of neck muscles. Following this, the three ‘banderilleros’ (flagmen) plant sharp barbed sticks, which further weakens the bull. In the final stage, the matador reenters the area and stabs the bull through the heart.

Jallikattu is no Bullfight

A simple comparison of the formats of Spanish Bullfights and the Indian Jallikattu is enough to reveal that Jallikattu has no resemblance to the Bullfight.

First, the Bullfight by its very design contains the slaying of bulls, but Jallikatti has no such element of slaying or injuring in its format.

Second, the bull is severely maimed and injured at each stage of the Bullfight using swords, lances, barbed sticks, etc. But, Jallikattu is a simple sport of participants trying to hold the humps of the bulls and there is absolutely no use of any equipment that may cause injury.

Third, the Bullfight has been designed on the concept of violence and war. The people are pitched against the Bull in a fight to death (at least to the bull, people get injured as well). On the other hand, Jalikattu has been designed as a healthy competition between people and the bulls where there is no real harm to anyone except occasional cases of injury.

Fourth, there is no benefit for the stud bull or their breeds in the Bullfighting. But, Jallikattu helps in sustaining native livestock breeds and these bulls are treated with great honor and care in the community.

More importantly, the Stud bulls that participate in Jallikattu are usually raised as Temple bulls, which are fed and taken care by the entire village. Thus, people treat the bull as a village pet and show love and affection towards the animal. Such a relationship is also present between the Individual owners and their Stud bulls as well.

This emotional and affectionate relationship that exists between the Bull breeders, village folks, and the bulls is the driving spirit behind Jallikattu. This bond makes it a cultural event that further strengthens the bond between man and animal. Perceived from this standpoint, it is clear that Jallikattu is not even remotely connected with the idea of violence or cruelty towards bulls.

The fact that the animal rights activists are blatantly refusing to even acknowledge this cultural bond (between people and the bulls), which is so central to Jallikattu, speaks volumes about their willful ignorance, and also raises serious questions about their credibility and dedication to the cause of animals. Their past silence over illegal cow-slaughter and beef parties that celebrated slaying of cows or over the slaughter of goats during festivals like Bakrid, further exposes their hypocrisy and points towards a possibility of some hidden agenda dictating their actions.

It is indeed very disturbing and alarming that even the courts are increasingly being influenced by the left-liberal agenda which has left no stones unturned to attack Indian traditional practices. The stand taken by the courts on various issues in the recent past, be it the issue of prohibition of women’s entry into Sabarimala temple, or the issue of Jain Sallekhana, clearly point towards growing ‘secularization’ of the courts and the demonization of the traditional Indian practices.

SLOBs (Secular Liberal Outrage Brigade) have repeatedly used women’s rights, animal rights, human rights, and every other ‘rights’ in their kitty to dismantle Indian (especially Hindu) religious and cultural practices and traditions. If the ban on Jallikattu continues and the practice dies out, then the SLOB would add another victory at killing an Indian traditional practice to their kitty.


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