BREAKING NEWS: VICTORY FOR THE BULLS! Tamil Nadu: Jallikattu before the Supreme Court of India, Part Two

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These and other bulls shown are not jallikattu bulls, but were rescued from illegal transport by Blue Cross of India.


By Sharon St Joan


Continued from Part One.


To read Part One first, click here.


BREAKING NEWS:  It has just been announced  (on Wednesday, May 7  in India) that the Supreme Court of India has banned all jallikattu events, also bullock cart racing, and all forms of cruelty to the bulls that were before the court. This is a landmark victory that frees the bulls from centuries of abuse. It comes after more than forty years of intense work on behalf of the bulls by so many animal groups and people in India.

Dr. Nanditha Krishna, one of those who has worked so long for the bulls, said, “Jallikattu was such a barbaric custom. We are all so happy it has stopped!  We were all praying for the bulls!”



 “Tamil Nadu will burn.”


Following Jairam Ramesh’s ruling, when the High Court of Tamil Nadu was just at the point of banning jallikattu, the lawyers representing the sport’s promoters issued a dire warning that the jallikattu events for that year were already well beyond the planning stage, and that if they were canceled, then “Tamil Nadu will burn.” This threat of violent civil unrest gave the judges pause for thought, and they declined to ban jallikattu, much to the dismay of animal advocates.


Earlier, on November 27, 2010, the Supreme Court of India had refused to ban jallikattu, despite an appeal by the AWBI. The Court stated that there were already in place adequate safeguards to protect people from injury and the bulls from cruelty.


Concerning the duty of the courts, Dr. Chinny Krishna maintains that “The courts are there to uphold the law and to protect the rights of the less powerful – children, women, and animals too…. Jallikattu is illegal and the courts will rule that it is illegal….The court of last resort is the people.”


Dawn Williams, Blue Cross Resident Manager and a caregiver, with rescued cows.
Dawn Williams, Blue Cross Resident Manager and a Blue Cross caregiver, with rescued cows.



Back to the Supreme Court



The Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Act, allowing jallikattu, was passed in 2011, going against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act that had been passed back in 1960 by the central government. The AWBI then filed the most recent case in the Supreme Court of India, asking that jallikattu be banned, and also that the Court consider at the same time other issues related to bulls, such as bullock cart races in Maharashtra and the illegal transport and slaughter of cattle.


Despite all the many efforts to have jallikattu banned, and despite the fact that mistreatment of the bulls contravenes Indian animal welfare law, the High Court of Tamil Nadu and the Supreme Court of India have so far declined to ban jallikattu events.


A Blue Cross caregiver feeding rescued cows.
A Blue Cross caregiver feeding rescued cows.


Now, with the new case being brought to the Supreme Court, filed on different grounds, there is a renewed expectation of protection for the bulls.


Legal setbacks notwithstanding, there have over the years been significant successes. Thanks to the efforts of the AWBI and many Indian animal organizations, far fewer jallikattu events take place now than in past years. Jallikattu is only allowed to take place during five months of the year, not year-round as before. A substantial fee must be paid in advance in order to receive a permit to hold the event, and AWBI inspectors are required to be on scene, as well as veterinarians for the animals and medical personnel for injured participants.



Will there be jallikattu next spring?



Jallikattu events begin in the spring, during the important south Indian harvest festival of Pongal. As Dr. Krishna pointed out, sometimes the same people who, as part of the Pongal celebration, go to the temple in the morning and pay reverence to the cow, also attend jallikattu in the afternoon, where the bulls are tormented. The inherent contradiction in this seems to go unnoticed by jallikattu enthusiasts.


As Dr. Krishna explained, “Although forms of jallikattu may go back a long way and ultimately are part of the chain of events going back to the domestication of the cow, it is only over the last 300 years of so, that jallikattu has really taken off as a major attraction.”


The young men of the villages attempt to retrieve a bag of coins tied to the horns of the bull, so there is a monetary prize, and, in early times, the winner also won the hand of the chieftain’s daughter.


Today Jallikattu revolves around money. It is a huge profit-making enterprise – an enormous occasion for betting large sums.


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Most local people oppose jallikattu



Most local people don’t attend jallikattu events – and the majority of the population in central Tamil Nadu cities and towns, where jallikattu is held, oppose the sport.


Its support comes largely from tourists: French, German, British, Japanese and others. Among the Japanese tours that frequent jallikattu are some that specialize in pilgrimages to Buddhist sites – ironic in light of Buddhist teachings against animal cruelty.



The Supreme Court of India calls jallikattu “barbaric”



Now, with the new jallikattu case before the Supreme Court of India, being heard by Justice Radhakrisnan and Justice Pinaki Ghosh, the Court has expressed amazement that this kind of barbaric treatment of animals is still taking place in the twenty-first century. Animal groups are guardedly confident that the Court will rule that against jallikattu and that this cruel “tradition” will at last be a thing of the past.


Even if the court battle is not won, Dr. Krishna states that the fight to defend the bulls from cruelty will continue – with stepped-up support in the Parliament and with renewed efforts to ban this kind of animal cruelty forever, so that India, known for millennia for its reverence for animals, will uphold its long tradition of kindness — protecting and defending the bulls and all animals.



Photos: Sharon St. Joan / These are not jallikattu bulls; they are bulls rescued from illegal transport by Blue Cross of India in 2012.