Much like the Spanish Bullfighting called as “corrida de toros” (literally meaning as “running of bulls”), here too a similar sport in the Southern part of India is hosted every year during the auspicious time of Pongal. It typically takes place on the second day of Pongal festival called “Maattu Pongal” which especially signifies, thanking the Sun God for Sunlight, thanking animals especially cattle and keeping foods for birds. The cows and bulls are vividly painted for this occasion.
The term “Jallikattu” is derived from the Tamil words “jalli” which refers to gold and “kattu” which refers to tied. Therefore, combined together it means coins being tied to the bulls’ horns, which is considered the prize for who so ever tames the bull. The bull that wins is used to service numerous cows preserving the native breed. It is a renowned and ancient ‘sport’, believed to have been practiced some 2500 years ago. It is also controversial because the sport often results in major injuries often leading to deaths.
The sudden outrage with Jallikattu has now cropped up because last year, the Environment Ministry amended its earlier notification, initially issued by the UPA Government in 2011 which declared that the sport can be carried out irrespective of the impose ban. This directly intervened with the Supreme Court’s order which was challenged by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). It eventually led to a stay order issued by the court.
A recent research study was conducted by PETA where they found out that the animal was deliberately disoriented. It was alleged that the bull’s tail was bitten and twisted, stabbed, punched and dragged on the ground. Renowned celebrities like John Abraham and Hema Malini vocally supported the campaign and ban against Jallikattu.
In January 2016, the Central Government lifted the ban on request of Tamil Nadu Government. This notification was challenged by PETA and other animal welfare organizations in the Supreme Court. PETA explained that ‘cruelty’ is not limited to slaughter but includes unnecessary suffering and torture-induced on the participating animals for the purpose of human entertainment such as this sport
Therefore, PETA strongly and vocally supports that it is the fundamental duty of all citizens of India to have compassion for all living creatures and to protect wildlife.
The point to be noted here is that the natives are protesting against the ban because they are advocating that it is their symbolic and ancient Tamilian Pride which has been followed for generations. The Jallikattu protests are aggravated by the view that the ban invades on the cultural identity of the populace. Protestors, mostly young students and professionals, opine that their fight is for their culture and pride and rejected the allegation that the sport is cruel to bulls. These protestors have also blamed PETA for lobbying against Jallikattu and demanded to be banished from the state. They say that the law on cruelty towards animals should be amended and include Jallikattu bulls as trained animals and used in military or educational as well as scientific purposes.