Performance of animals in religious, social and cultural events will not be debarred as the environment ministry will soon be changing rules to nullify a Supreme Court ban on animal performance in festivals and sporting events like Jallikattu (a bull taming sport) in Tamil Nadu.
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar had recently spoken about the possibility of amending the law to allow performance of animals like elephants in religious functions and bullocks in traditional rural sporting events.
“If age-old traditions of the country face hurdles because of the law, then we would try to amend them,” Javadekar had said while addressing BJP leaders at an event in Kolhapur earlier this year. He reiterated the same in Tamil Nadu while promising to lift a ban on Jallikattu.
More than anti-animal protection, the government’s move has political connotations as the BJP looks at strengthening its foothold in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where it has been traditionally weak.
The environment ministry informed the Kerala government that use of elephants is not covered under the rules as per clause 2 (h). The clause, however, defines performing animals as ones which are used for the purpose of any entertainment, including a film or equine event to which public are admitted.
Gauri Maulekhi, a trustee of People for Animals, said religious and cultural events are public events and covered under the rules. She alleged that this was being done to circumvent the Supreme Court directions related to performance of animals.
The rules notified in 2001, when the previous NDA government was in power, provided for registration of all performing animals and inspection by Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), a statutory body constituted under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
Government sources, however, explained that the board had resisted giving relaxation for performing elephants as it had earlier this year filed an affidavit in the SC detailing “mental and physical torture” suffered by elephants in religious events in Kerala.
Officials said similar relaxation would soon be issued to allow performance of other animals such as bullocks in rural sporting events.
Bullock cart races are extremely popular in rural Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana and taming of bulls in TN and parts of Andhra Pradesh.
A senior government functionary said the “work of over a decade in animal protection will be lost” if the proposal gets the