A Liquor ban for bulls as well as their masters! That’s a great leveler, indeed. As Alanganallur town near Madurai prepares to host its annual bull-taming contest on Wednesday as part of the Pongal festivities, the authorities have banned booze for the beasts and their tamers. A total of 600 bulls from more than eight districts are expected to take part in the event.
In the past, owners used to excite their bulls with country liquor — banned in Tamil Nadu. This led to difficult situations where the animals turned violent causing injuries and even death to the contestants, and at times even to the spectators when they ploughed into the stands. Only last year two contestants were killed and a dozen others were injured.
Aggravating the situation were drunken bull tamers — mostly village youth from nearby areas — who felt only a swig of liquor would give them that extra energy to take on the rampaging bull and untie the cash garland tied around their necks.
In reality, sozzled youths used to get trapped between the speeding hooves of the animals or gored.
“Liquor has contrasting effects on the man and the animal. While it pepped up the bull, so much so that it went out of control, in man it led to a loss of reflex, much needed to dodge the raging bulls. This time we have decided to play it safe by banning alcohol for the participants,” explained a tourism official in charge of the annual show that attracts many foreign tourists as well.
Now prior to the contest, bulls and the male contestants would have to undergo mandatory liquor tests. Any trace of liquor would disqualify the con testant and the bull.
Animal rights activists have protested against the event saying that bulls were even administered with intoxicants like ganja to make them violent.
“The media only reports injuries caused to contestants or the spectators but every year a few bulls are injured as they’re forced to run at breakneck speed through nar row barricaded stretches,” said K. Parameswaran an of fice bearer of the Madurai branch of the Blue Cross.