In a milestone victory in the fight for animal protection, jallikattu is now permanently banned.
Jallikattu, or the “sport” of bull-baiting, took place mostly in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The events were cruel and subjected the bulls to being tormented by crowds of young men attempting to tackle them. Behind the scenes, bulls were tortured in order to get them to run, since bulls do not naturally run the way horses do. Many Indian animal groups worked hard against jallikattu, notably Blue Cross of India, which fought an uphill battle for more than five decades to have jallikattu banned.
On May 7, 2014, jallikattu, was banned by the Supreme Court of India.
A May 13, 2014, editorial in The Hindu states that the Supreme Court ban of jallikattu stemmed from two considerations: the requirement to avoid cruelty and the continued inability of those holding these events to avoid injuries to both bulls and humans.
Jallikattu was “inherently violent.” That it was an old tradition of several hundred years did not exempt it from the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
In an article in the Deccan Chronicle, Dr. Nanditha Krishna (Chairperson, Humane Society International/India; Founder CPR Environmental Education Centre; and Governing Body Member of Blue Cross of India, Chennai) wrote:
“May 7, 2014, will go down in the history of India for the landmark verdict given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to ban the use of bulls for entertainment. This includes jallikattu, rekla (bullock cart) races and horse-and-bull races…I must particularly mention and thank Mr. Jairam Ramesh who, as Minister for Environment and Forests, banned the use of bulls as performing animals in 2011.”
Dr. Nanditha Krishna explained that jallikattu had been allowed to continue even after this ban, through the passage of a special law in Tamil Nadu, until the Supreme Court ruling on May 7 finally banned jallikattu permanently, upholding the 2011 decision of Mr. Jairam Ramesh.
The Supreme Court Justices were unequivocal in their finding that jallikattu is illegal.
A May 8 Indian Express article by Kanu Sarda quoted Supreme Court Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan in an eloquent defense of animals, who held that the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960 means that animals are entitled to “lead a life with intrinsic worth, honor, and dignity.” “An animal also has honor and dignity which it cannot be arbitrarily deprived of and its rights and privacy have to be protected from unlawful attacks.” Animals have a right to “a healthy and clean atmosphere” and protection from human beings “inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering.”
Another Indian Express article, on May 8, by Pearl H. Mohankumar, quotes Dr. Chinny Krishna, Vice-Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, which spearheaded the fight to have jallikattu banned. “A big thank you goes to Jairam Ramesh for meticulously going through all the data that we provided relating to this cruel sport and issuing a notice to the Tamil Nadu government despite opposition from TN leaders. We are absolutely delighted with the verdict.” Dr. Chinny Krishna also thanked all the top lawyers who had worked on the case pro bono, adding, “According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, it is clearly stated that animals cannot fight, and 54 years later jallikattu has finally been declared illegal.”
The fight to have jallikattu banned has taken over fifty years and is, at last, a resounding victory that reaffirms India’s long-standing tradition of kindness to all, both humans and animals, expressed in the ancient Indian principle of “ahimsa” or “do no harm.”
Thanks to the courageous and persevering efforts of many Indian animal advocates, the animal welfare laws of India are among the most enlightened in the world. The practice of jallikattu was a cruel aberration in a long tradition of reverence for animals, and now it has been permanently banned.
This victory must give a sense of possibility to those all over the world who struggle every day against injustice to animals.
Photos: These are not jallikattu bulls; they are bulls rescued by Blue Cross of India from illegal transport.
To visit the website of the Animal Welfare Board of India, click here.
To visit the website of Blue Cross of India, click here.