Actor Kamal Haasan has always been vehemently vocal on issues he believes in. But when he recently spoke up in favour of the banned Jallikattu sport in Tamil Nadu — which animal activists have declared inhuman to bulls — several eyebrows were raised. But Haasan remains steadfast in his belief that Jallikattu has a place in the Tamilian socio-cultural context.
“It is a sport older than Christ and Buddha. It is not a Matador versus Bull kind of unfair, cruel match. The original Tamil name for the sport is called Eru thazhuvudal, meaning embracing the bull. Using any weapons against the bull is considered foul and cowardly... Yes,over a period of time, and with no proper monitoring of the sport, certain excesses might have come into practice. If those violent practises are eschewed and older traditions are brought into the sport, it might cease to concern animal lovers,” says the 62-year-old, who calls himself a bull lover.
I owned three bulls for a few years. I filmed Jallikattu in Virumandi. My bulls were the chief guests on stage when we released the film’s music
“I owned three bulls for a few years.I filmed Jallikattu in my film Virumandi. My bulls were the chief guests on stage when we released the film’s music. My bulls lived and died without pain. Like me they acted in films as well. They did not end up in anybody’s plate... I’m probably the only or maybe one of the actors who actually trained to embrace the bull... Even my dogs roam free in my house and are not chained.”
According to Haasan, the difference between other combat sports and Jallikattu lies in the spirit of the ritual. “The players who run with the bull love the animals too. Just because you do not see animals playing traditional roles it doesn’t mean they are being tortured.In Rajasthan, camels are used as beasts of burden, sometimes pulling at nearly a one-ton load. In some places in India, camels are slaughtered for meat.”
Milk is meant for calves. Stealing their quota and milking the cow everyday is also cruel
The actor goes on to question the connection between animal rights and vegetarianism. “Being vegetarian does not constitute ahimsa. Vegetarians eat plants. Jagdish Chandra Bose’s discovery and research has proven without doubt that plants sleep at night and come awake during day, like us. They discern pain and fear like we do. Just because they don’t scream and squeal in a way we understand does not exclude them from pain or cruelty.”
And while we are on the subject of cruelty to animals, Haasan points out that lacto-consumption is also a form of violence to animal rights. “Milk is meant for calves. Stealing their quota and milking the cow everyday is also cruel. I don’t drink milk at all.”
In principle, the actor is against all bans. A few years ago, when the central government contemplated banning porn, he had argued: “Then we should destroy Khajuraho, ban the Bundi paintings, deface some of our temple sculptures, and while we are at it, we can ban the Kamasutra ... and Aandal of Srivilliputhur. Then finally we can decide what to do with phallic worshipping and Bhagvati pooja.”