By Gauri Maulekhi
Editor's note: This story was first published on 30 December, 2015, we are republishing it in light of the Centre issuing a notification giving its nod to the bull taming sport.
The Ministry for Environment, Forests, Climate Change and Animals Welfare have never had such a curious minister. From pronouncing trees are nuisances that get in the way of development, to writing letters to states to kill all animals that come into fields including elephants, Prakash Javadekar is the very antithesis of what an MoEF should be. His latest press conference which is in the papers today - but which he has been saying since the day he became the MoEF is that he intends to legalise the cruel and dangerous sports such as jallikattu (bull taming) in Tamil Nadu, bullock cart races in Maharashtra and Punjab, Kambala (buffalo race) in Karnataka and Dhirio (bull fight) in Goa, that were banned by the Supreme Court of India ( a bench headed by the Chief Justice) in May 2014.
In its judgment dated 7 May 2014, the Supreme Court stated: "We, therefore, hold that Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)is right in its stand that jallikattu, bullock-cart race and such events per-se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and hence we uphold the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government, consequently, Bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or Bullock-cart Races in the State of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country." In its judgment the Supreme Court also categorically held that Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change cannot allow jallikattu or bull races and cannot modify the notification dated 11 July 2011 (whereby performances by bulls had been banned) without taking the Animal Welfare Board of India's (AWBI) - an advisory body under the same ministry- view with respect to the same. The ministry hasn't taken any opinion of the AWBI, while rushing to allow these cruel sports.
In the past, from 2008 to 2014, the special conditions of the Supreme Court regulating jallikattu were brazenly flouted at all the events which were inspected by the Animal Welfare Board of India. The evidence gathered during the inspection proved that no regulation can or will protect bulls from misery or people from injuries. The findings revealed that jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals and is a threat to human participants, spectators and any police or government representative assigned to monitor an event.
Almost every bull, who was forced to participate endured suffering and pain and was dragged into the queue and the vadi vasals by his nose ropes to being hit, poked, bitten and deliberately terrified. In order to force the bulls into and out of the vadi vasals, each one must endure unmitigated suffering. Although the Supreme Court had placed emphasis on no harm coming to the animals, the reality was that cruelty to animals was inescapably part of jallikattu. Bulls are beaten, poked, prodded, harassed and jumped on by numerous people. They have their tails bitten and twisted, and suspicious liquids (likely alcohol) are forced down their throats before they are dragged into the vadi vasals.
In just over four years, from 2010 to 2014, at least 1,100 people have been injured due to jallikattu-type events, and 17 people have died. However, these figures were quoted by the media, the original figures are bound to be higher.
During bull races, all the bulls, who were forced to compete in the races, were subjected to abject cruelty, including being beaten, having irritants rubbed into their mouths, being yanked by nose ropes (causing their noses to bleed), being subjected to a torture device called a 'kela' and having their tails bitten, twisted and pulled. Bull racing is inherently cruel, as bulls can't be forced to run without agitating, frightening or hurting them, and enforcing race regulations is impractical. In the 2014 judgement the Supreme Court judgment also ruled that cruelty is inherent in these events, as bulls are not anatomically adapted for such races.
AWBI inspections documented cruelty to buffaloes, used in Kambala events in 2014, which was allowed through an interim order by Karnataka High Court, under certain regulations. The inspection found violations of the 2014 judgment of Supreme Court and several sections of the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Rules there under. The findings include buffalo used in racing not being registered with the AWBI, drivers and animal handlers not possessing certificates for transportation of animals, buffalo having two or three tight-fitting thick nose ropes inserted through a hole in the nasal septum (which were constantly pulled and yanked, causing tremendous distress and pain) and buffalo with nose rings and plastic coverings on nose ropes causing pain and distress. During the race, the buffalo were subjected to violent acts, including being hit on the body, slapped on the face and having their tails pulled. Many were forced to participate in the race throughout the night, and after the race the animals were frothing at the mouth and salivating heavily because of severe dehydration and exhaustion.
During bull fights, eight bulls are typically used- in each round: two bulls are brought together and surrounded by a ring of spectators. The bulls' horns are sharpened to ensure that every charge will cause bloody gashes and deep puncture wounds in the other animal's flesh. The round ends when one of the bulls is either killed or manages to flee. The survivors of each round fight each other while spectators bet on the outcome. The "winner" is the last bull left alive - but by then, the bull's injuries are often so severe that he is typically sent to slaughter. Bull fights are in direct violation of Sections 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and the Supreme Court judgment and still it is unfortunate that Goa government taking initiative to legalize Dhirio, the bloody bull fights.
The plan of the Central government to amend the law while giving excuses like tradition and culture is purely to attract voters in Tamil Nadu and other states and it is ignoring the Supreme Court's judgment which stated that if culture and tradition are at variance with the law enacted by Parliament, the law will take precedence over culture and tradition. The initiative of the Bharatiya Janata Party governments to prohibit cow slaughter and ban beef, have limited practical effect on the butchering of cows, as their progeny- the bulls, will continue to suffer in the name of culture, tradition, and entertainment, until they are butchered for meat.
It is high time to understand that cruelty is not limited to just slaughter, but includes all types of unnecessary suffering induced on animals and the torture they are subjected to for the sake of human entertainment, and is explicitly explained in the PCA Act. Though the cow slaughter ban doesn't prevent the torture of cows and progenies, and doesn't extend to bulls and buffaloes, the initiatives of the Central Government to legalize Jallikattu, bull races or Kambala and bull fights or Dhirio is a huge and disastrous step backward against the values of this country for compassion and animal protection.
The Constitution of India says that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures. Jallikattu, bull races and bull fights goes against this constitutional requirement of all Indian citizens and contravenes the PCA Act. The safety of participants and spectators is also put at tremendous risk. "Tradition" is never a sufficient justification for cruelty, and a cruel tradition should never be allowed to define a culture. Traditions, like everything else, can - and must - evolve. Times and sensibilities have changed, and these events are an inhumane and archaic ritual that has no place in the 21st century. The government should be rather supporting any legislation aimed at saving animals, protecting their quality of life and provide them fundamental rights.
Is the government going to restart Sati and Thugee as well. These are also part of India's traditions. On one hand this government says that they are pro-cow and have banned the selling of its meat . Is the bull not part of the cow family?
Check out a few photos, where bulls are tortured during jallikattu here.