Why Jallikattu ban could lead to extinction of native bulls

The darker and deeper implications of the ban.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned the sport citing animal welfare issues; post which during January 2015, SC upheld its decision after protests all over Tamilnadu against the ban.

Jallikattu , an ancient sport, the seals of the Indus Valley civilization depict it, which is proof that this sport was in vogue 5,000 years ago. Ancient Tamil poetry, known as Sangam literature (2nd BCE – 2nd CE), has many detailed references to ‘Eru Thazhuvuthal’ (hugging/embracing the bull).

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Jalli means ‘coins’, and kattu is ‘tied’. A small bag of coins was tied to the horns of the bulls, which the players claimed as a prize money. The only way you could get that was to embrace the hump of the bull long enough to grab the bag without getting hit.

The ban, imposed by Supreme Court after organizations like PETA India, FIAPO protested the practice, followed by Animal welfare board of India (AWBI) which filed a case to ban the game.

Now about the BAN! Yes, this sport is being banned by Supreme Court after organizations like PETA India, FIAPO protested the practice, followed by Animal welfare board of India (AWBI) which filed a case to ban the game.

The accusations by these organizations are:

  • Bull is tortured & killed
  • Players die

Does this really happen? Is ban an “ultimate” solution? Doesn’t it look like an extreme step?

The ‘urban disconnect’ from rural India plays a major role in this issue. We are letting the citified mindset to get away with the rampant destruction of our own livestock and farming. Our media reports over the last decade had shown every headline that screams about injuries during Jallikattu event thereby sensationalizing news and grabbing eyeballs of the viewers. We must also not forget that the decision makers at the courts, influential organizations, associations, including the city people are in fact ‘urbanites’ who support the ban. No wonder they would hardly know the game!

Are there any regulations by Tamilnadu Govt. to protect the interest of Bulls & players?

The answer is yes. There is an act in TN to regulate the sport named ‘Tamilnadu Jallikattu Regulation of 2009’. Every bull owner needs to submit an application along with the physical fitness certificate to AWBI with a fee prescribed. Only on approval from the body, Bulls get eligible to participate in the event.

By the state act (TN), every bull is giving a serial number first (JK XXX). Tests are performed by the veterinary doctors which include physical check-up including horns, breathe test, urine & blood sample test etc. After the event also, the same set of tests are being performed. These pre & post medical tests are carried out under the supervision of the AWBI appointed observer and are recorded. All these test documents and videos before and/during the event are then submitted to state govt., AWBI &court etc. It is to be noted that the sport happens under the supervision of the collector, RDO, SP cadre officer of police and an AWBI appointed observer.

Are animals being tortured before & during the game? Do a lot of players die?
PETA & other organizations accuse the bull owners of using chilli powder, pouring liquor into bull’s mouth before the event. If the above accusations are true, then these claimed tortures should be visible in the Govt. veterinarian test records or videos. Secondly, they can identify a bull with its serial number allotted and the owner can be mapped from the data to be acted upon.
Isn’t it illogical to do such acts and make the bull play the game? Well, liquor would have the same effect on bulls as it has on humans!

It is to be noted that there is no single registered case of injury post this regulation was passed in 2009. There is a likely chance of evidence produced by PETA to be a staged or an exceptional case of any place before 2009 ie. Before the regulations had come. In Spain, the participating bulls are killed. But here in India, bulls are celebrated by village and family & no bull is killed.

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A leading cool drink Industry is planning to enter the dairy industry in India. How do such corporates survive in a market where people are having their own milk production and products? Where do they create a need for their products in the Indian market? How can they make this happen?
Well, it would work like this: Ban the game – Make the bulls unavailable for breeding by sending to slaughterhouses – Establish the empire. A big game isn’t it! Our native bread (bull and cow) are at a great demand for export knowing their value.Do we all know that we import Jersey cows for every two years? This is a whole new topic to talk about.
It is to be noted that earlier the same cool drink industry wanted to set up its factory in TN which was opposed by villagers in and around the place since gallons of water will be consumed by the factory, not making it available for agriculture. Again a threat?!

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A strange aspect is that these organizations focus on bulls being used for the sport, however, there is serious animal exploitation happening all around where there is no voice raised. Not to mention about the pain horses go through during training for horse races. Why aren’t these organizations coming forward to talk about this? In fact, it is a game for the rich, funded by them. Why would they even talk?! What about all the animals sent to slaughterhouses? Is that not cruelty?

Questions to animal welfare activists:  By banning this sport, are we not making the bulls available for exploitation? What would happen post ban? How would these animal welfare organizations stand against these bulls sent to slaughterhouses? How will we protect such bulls from becoming extinct? The repercussions are really serious on this matter.

A bull is raised in the household like a family member. They are taken care by the family throughout the year in a protective environment with food, proper shelter, and medication. It is to be noted that this sport is being played only once in a year. It is also a part of their culture to worship the bull as god and do the honors. For the rest of the year, such bulls are being used for agricultural & mating purposes. This is not just a sport or tradition alone, it is a breeding science!

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Consequences of Ban are really dangerous. One needs to completely understand the ecosystem in order to decide whether such ban is justified or not. To begin with, if the game is banned, that would lead to bulls being tamed & taken to slaughterhouses. This would lead to native breed to bull becoming unavailable for mating purposes, which would, in turn, create a huge demand for artificial insemination for breeding purposes (A Costly affair for cattle owners). And not to forget that we would be import dependent even on these bovine animals. It is alarming to know that there were around 130 or so cattle breeds in India 100 years ago and now there are only 37 of it. The ban would lead to further destruction of local livestock breeds in the name of animal rights. It is our duty & responsibility to conserve and safeguard such native breeds from extinction.

Whether we find the traditional game relevant to today’s world or not, the banning of the game is not the solution, looking at the repercussions it can lead to. Amending Protection of cruelty to animals act is the only way out to save the event. Jallikattu is a sustainable way of maintaining native breeds & hence is not to be banned, rather can be modified for the benefit of all.

14 thoughts on “Why Jallikattu ban could lead to extinction of native bulls

  1. Very good analysis indeed giving a to z of the issues currently involved!!!
    Question of cruelty really bothers me, if such cruelty is inflicted on the domestic animal before, during or after the Game. But now the whole Tamil society wants Jallikkattu. I am on the side of allowing the Play with strict adherence to rules that may be imposed/precautions that may be suggested to be taken to minimise injury to the Bull.

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    1. I see a flaw in the analysis.. How would stopping of chasing the bull amidst a sea of violent people…lead to taming n taking to slaughter house????

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      1. Flaw? There is linkage in everything. Did you know we are exporting our native breed abroad and we import Jersey variety for every two years ? Our native breeds are at high demand there. If there is jallikattu, there is a owner who takes care of the bull like a family. It creates a strong bandage. Having it helps the society as a whole. We always need to look at the holistic view. Thanks for your comment btw.

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  2. Your article is not based on facts. Not ALL the bulls are entered in Jallikattu. That is a special breed mainly reserved for that purpose. There are several native bulls who are not trainable for this sport. So the argument that this is a conspiracy to eradicate native bulls does not hold water. There are several other native breeds available for breeding.
    Additionally, your comparison to spain and Tamilnadu is funny. There it is a one on one fight and the fighter runs the equal risk as the bull.
    But here in TN, a single bull is frightened by drums, shouts and liquor and 50-60 people run after one bull by squeezing the various parts of a bull, the tail, the horn, the neck and its ‘thimil’ and is pure and simple torture. I have witnessed several of these and the animal suffers ultimately.
    Also, if your favorite bull does not win, I have heard of that bull being killed by the qwner as ‘Honor’ killing.
    I welcome this sport with several modifications , the main one being, it should be one-on-one.
    This assurance must be given by the owners before we even have a case for lifting the ban.
    Thanks.

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    1. Thanks. I haven’t told all bulls enters jallikattu too. There is a bigger picture behind eradication of native breed point. Do not narrow down , you wouldn’t understand why everyone says about it then. Heard of our breeds (both cow and bull) being exported and Jersey cows being imported ? If you knew this, that answers your question. And i would suggest you to know the game in Spain and tamilnadu for understanding the difference. As you say we can welcome the sport with modifications to be in consensus with all. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. Great article help me a lot to understand jallikattu as i am from Madhya Pradesh who didn’t know anything about the game and i am totally Agree with you

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  4. I have some additional points support the Author.

    In TamilNadu, breeders rear bulls with the intention of showcasing them in Jallikattu. Most of the farmers can’t afford to raise these bulls and are hence reliant on these breeders or on the common temple bull which is reared by the entire village rather than a single breeder. The bulls that fare well in the Jallikattu arena are in constant demand for servicing the cows. So we can think of Jallikattu as a marketplace for these bulls. Now this still doesn’t answer as to why Jallikattu alone can help in this and why can’t breeders breed these native bulls irrespective of whether Jallikattu happens or not.
    To understand that we will have to understand the chronology of events that lead to Jallikattu and events that happen thereafter. Jallikattu is held during Pongal time (i.e. mid January), the strong bulls are identified and mated with cows. After this the farming season starts. After harvesting is done, this cycle starts again where the breeders showcase their bulls in Jallikattu events. People with a keen eye for this then make note of the strongest bulls and then seek them out later in what is known as a sandhai (marketplace) in Tamil
    Now how does Jallikattu help in the process? The bulls used for mating need to be virile. During the mating season (which is typically after Pongal), these bulls need to be at the top of their game i.e. they must be secreting all the necessary male hormones, experience adrenaline rush and also a fast beating heart. This is where Jallikattu comes in picture. The time when the bull is released from the Vaadi Vaasal (the small narrow gate from which the bulls are released) and till the time it manages to reach the other end (if it is not subdued) causes it to experience a great adrenaline rush which then boosts it’s testosterone levels and also keeps its heart beating at a rate faster than normal levels. This increases their virility and this is one of the most fundamental of all necessities for selective breeding. Can this be done without an activity like Jallikattu? Possibly but then the number of matings a bull can accomplish decreases significantly. Jallikattu helps in increasing this which is of utmost importance to a farmer’s wellbeing. Also because artificial insemination is not adapted for native breeds, the banning of an event like Jallikattu will lead to these native breeds getting destroyed which would then force our hands to rely on artificial insemination the very process which the farmers shunned to begin with.
    In places where events like Jallikattu are not held, the male calves (which are essentially useless unless there is demand for tasks like ploughing) are slaughtered. but in places where Jallikattu is held, these calves are held on to for the purpose of showcasing them and establishing their superiority.

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