File photo: Participants attempt to tame a bull during Jallikattu in Madurai.(PTI)
File photo: Participants attempt to tame a bull during Jallikattu in Madurai.(PTI)

Tamil Nadu allows Jallikattu with Covid-19 restrictions, PETA cries foul

Jallikattu has been a controversial issue in the state which has faced bans previously as several animal welfare groups have called it barbaric.
Hindustan Times, Chennai | By Divya Chandrababu | Edited by Sparshita Saxena
UPDATED ON DEC 23, 2020 08:22 PM IST

Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday permitted Jallikattu, the traditional bull-taming sport, with pandemic restrictions during the harvest festival of Pongal in January, according to a government order.

All participants must undergo Covid-19 test at a government laboratory and produce a negative certificate, said a statement from the government on Wednesday. The number of players or bull tamers will be limited to 150 at the event.

The spectators cannot exceed more than 50 per cent of the capacity of the premises so that social distancing norms are followed and all viewers will have to wear masks. All entrants will be screened using a thermal scanner to check body temperature, the statement added.

The decision comes ahead of Tamil Nadu going to assembly polls in early 2021.

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Jallikattu has been a controversial issue in the state which has faced bans previously as several animal welfare groups have called it barbaric.

“We are disappointed. It is a political decision with elections around the corner,” said Chennai-based Dr Chinni Krishna, former vice-chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India. “We want a total ban on Jallikattu from the point of view of human and animals involved.”

In 2014, the Supreme Court had banned the event following an appeal by the Animal Welfare Board of India and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

But political parties and sections of people in the state have rallied that Jallikattu is part of Tamil Nadu’s tradition and culture and it should continue.

“Every year during December we get our bulls and trainers ready but we were doubtful if Jallikattu will happen this year due to the pandemic so we are happy that the government has taken a good decision,” said PR Rajasekaran, president of Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Peravai, a body representing the taming sport participants.

“A fitness test with doctors is usually done for bull tamers about three days before the event; this year we will put them through a Covid-19 test as well.” Jallikattu is popularly conducted in Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Thanjavur, Perambalur among a dozen other districts of Tamil Nadu.

In 2017, huge protests erupted across the state for the ban against Jallikattu to be lifted. But the Tamil Nadu government unanimously enacted a legislation to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, to preserve the cultural heritage and ensure survival and continuance of native breeds of bulls.

“Since 2017, at least 22 bulls and 57 humans have died due to Jallikattu events, and now more will die this year, not only because of Jallikattu but due to Covid-19, Dr Manilal Valliyate, CEO, PETA India,” said in a statement to the media. “Any doctor would tell you a negative test is not a guarantee that a person is not infected, so with huge crowds gathering to torment bulls, they will likely torment society too by becoming super-spreader events.”

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