Not just a cock and bull story: The pain of Jallikattu ‘heroes’ is real | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Not just a cock and bull story: The pain of Jallikattu ‘heroes’ is real

The apex court’s order was primarily based on the report of the statutory Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), based in Chennai, on what the animals have to face for months before the Jallikattu events are held over three days during the post-harvest festival Pongal.

analysis Updated: Jan 20, 2017 14:58 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Jallikattu ban
In this Jan. 15, 2013 file photo, bull tamers try to control a bull during Jallikattu, in Palamedu, about 575 kilometers, south of Chennai.(AP File Photo )

The voice of the voiceless -- the magnificent bull – has been lost in the sea of pro-Jallikattu protesters in Tamil Nadu. And the most contentious question remains unanswered by those who swear by the bull-taming sport: can torture of animals in the name of tradition be allowed?

From a legal and ethical standpoint, the answer would be no. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act clearly prohibits display of animals for entertainment and for anything that causes them harm.

The broad definition covers all animal sports from bull-taming, to bull-cart racing in Maharashtra and Punjab and to bird fights in north-east and the provision has been re-enforced by the Supreme Court in its ruling in May, 2014.

The SC clearly declared bulls as non-performing animals, nullifying the environment ministry regulation allowing Jallikattu.

The apex court’s order was primarily based on the report of the statutory Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), based in Chennai, on what the animals have to face for months before the Jallikattu events are held over three days during the post-harvest festival Pongal.

Now, the AWBI office is under heavy police protection and officials are scared to move out of their homes fearing attacks by pro-Jallikattu protestors.

“We are virtually under house arrest,” said an AWBI member who was not willing to be named given the surcharged atmosphere in Chennai.

The report, which became the basis for the SC’s landmark order, found the bulls to be under artificially induced stress and were given hormonal injections days before the race.

“The bulls were found to be disoriented by substances such as alcohol; having their tails twisted and bitten; being stabbed and jabbed by sickles, spears, knives and sticks; and being punched and jumped on and dragged to the ground,” the report said.

Gauri Maulkehi, who argued the case for the Jallikattu ban in SC, said that before sending the bulls to the arena, they are provoked, tortured, starved and inflicted with pain to make them violent. “As a result, they suffer from severe forms of physical and mental injuries and even death.”

Between 2008 and 2014, the AWBI recorded the death of three bulls in Jallikattu events with suspicion of number to be higher on account of after-race deaths. The races also resulted in death of 43 and grievous injuries to about 300 people, according to AWBI.

Facts have taken a backseat as emotion clubbed with political exigency has taken over all rationale. In the post-Jayalalithaa era, Jallikattu is being used as a tool by political parties to show their might.

A year ago, when Jayalalithaa was alive, a similar demand for allowing Jallikattu by promulgating an ordinance was made, but there were no massive protests.

The difference this year is that Tamil Nadu has a new chief minister in O Pannerselvam and MK Stalin is the new face of the opposition DMK, both keen to ride the bull into the people’s hearts. They have come together in the name of Tamil pride and tradition.

And most importantly, bulls don’t speak our language and there is no way of ever knowing the pain and trauma they go through. A country which professes to worship the cow can definitely show the same respect to the bull.

(The author tweets @chetanecostani. Views expressed are personal)