By Sharon St Joan
Is the Supreme Court of India on the verge of banning jallikattu? And what is jallikattu?
With a case now before the Supreme Court, there is a chance that this cruel event, an Indian version of the running of the bulls, may be banned.
What is jallikattu?
Early every spring jallikattu events are held in central Tamil Nadu, in south India.
During jallikattu, the bulls are released through a gate. They then run along a corridor between two fences, required to be eight feet high, with crowds of shouting spectators held back behind the fences. In the area through which the bulls run, several hundred young men mill about, and when a bull comes running through the gate, they leap up and grab the hump of the bull with their arms, trying to hang on as long as possible until the bull throws them off. Others grab its horns, some its tail. A young man who hangs on for a specific length of time wins a prize of money. This is a terrifying experience for the bull who is being chased and assaulted by unruly crowds; the noise is deafening.
Terrifying as this event is for the animal, who has not been asked if he’d like to participate, it is the torture of the bull which goes on behind the scenes which is particularly cruel. Unlike horses who love to run, bulls do not run, it is not in their nature, unless they are either fighting or fleeing. The only way to make them run is to inflict severe pain on the animals, causing them to run. The torture of the bulls is an integral part of the activity of jallikattu, and jallikattu cannot take place without mistreatment the bulls because they won’t run. If you’d like to read a graphic description, please see the link below. This is the reason that every jallikattu event is always in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act – 1960, and the reason why the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) continues to file appeals in court seeking the banning of all jallikattu events.
Apart from the cruelty to the bulls, every year jallikattu causes many human injuries and often deaths – not to the sponsors of these events who make a lot of money from them, but to the young men who take part.
According to a January 16, 2014 article in India Today, two jallikattu events on January 15, 2014 resulted in at least 100 human injuries, some critical. The events took place in Tiruchi at Periya Sooriyur Village and at Palamedu in Madurai.
Investigators representing the AWBI at these two events, filed 46 FIR’s (First Information Reports) with the police, alleging illegal and violent acts against the animals.
The four-decade fight to end jallikattu
For over forty years, animal advocates in Tamil Nadu, India, have been working to end this cruelty.
In the 1960’s, Captain Sundaram, Founder and Director of Blue Cross of India, one of India’s oldest and best known animal organizations, was a prolific letter writer, sending off as many as twenty letters a week to newspaper editors about jallikattu and other animal-related issues. He and his son, Dr. Chinny Krishna, also a Blue Cross Founder, regularly spoke out against jallikattu in front of audiences, large and small.
Today, Dr. Chinny Krishna, as the Vice Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, continues the fight, over four decades later, on behalf of India’s animals. Under the leadership of General Kharb, Chairman of the AWBI, key animal issues, including jallikattu, are being energetically pursued. Thousands of active animal welfare groups in India, led by some of the most dynamic, tireless animal advocates anywhere in the world, pursue justice and wellbeing for the bulls and all of India’s animals.
The Animal Welfare Board of India and many Indian animal groups have for years been waging a battle in the courts to save the bulls from these painful and terrifying events.
Now, the issue is before the Supreme Court of India, which is expected to hand down a ruling soon. If all goes well, it may definitively ban jallikattu, within the next few days.
In recent years, however, the trajectory of jallikattu through the legal system has been anything but straightforward and clearcut. The courts have been going back and forth on this issue for several years, imposing some restrictions on jallikattu, while still allowing it to go ahead.
Back and forth in the courts
In August 2011, Jairam Ramesh, then Minister of the Environment and Forests, issued a ruling banning the use of bulls in performances, such as circuses, in India. This action added bulls to the list of lions, tigers, leopards, bears, and monkeys, who are all banned from being used in performances. This should have meant that bulls could not be used in jallikattu, which clearly is an animal performance.
However, there was a problem in the courts…
Continued in Part Two
To see the cruel treatment of bulls during jallikattu, click here.
(Caution, this contains graphic and disturbing images and descriptions of cruelty to animals.)
Photos: Sharon St Joan / These are not jallikattu bulls. They are bulls rescued from illegal transport in 2012 by Blue Cross of India.