Showing posts with label Bull-taming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bull-taming. Show all posts

Thursday 19 January 2017

Proud Tamilian, Is This The Culture You Want to Preserve?

Proud Tamilian, Is This The Culture You Want to Preserve?

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 19 January, 2017

Copyright © 2017 Dr. Seshadri Kumar.  All Rights Reserved.

Executive Summary:

There is currently a mass agitation protesting the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to make Jallikattu – the sport of bull-taming - illegal – a decision it arrived at in 2014. Protesters feel the judgement is an attack on Tamil culture.

This article explains why the protesters are misguided, based on the Supreme Court judgement and the facts contained therein. It shows how Jallikattu causes cruelty to the bulls involved in the “sport,” and why Tamil culture would be better off by discarding this savage practice.



There is currently a massive protest ongoing in Chennai at the Marina beach. The protesters, of all ages and genders, have come together to protest the central government’s ban on Jallikattu - a ban instituted on the grounds that it is considered an event that is cruel to bulls. The ban was necessitated by a judgement of the Indian Supreme Court that declared Jallikattu as violative of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act,1960.

Many prominent personalities in Tamil Nadu, such as politicians and cine stars, have come out in support of the agitation as support of “Tamil Culture.” Given the popular support for Jallikattu, it would have been career suicide for them not to support the agitation. One notable and praiseworthy feature of the agitation is that it has been largely peaceful. This is certainly something for Tamil people to be proud about.

The agitation has been presented as an issue of Tamil pride, which makes it difficult for Tamil people to criticize it. That also accounts for the large support it is getting. Everyone wants to be a proud Tamilian, whether or not they know the issues involved. People are saying on TV that Jallikattu is a sport that dates to the Sangam period in Tamil Nadu, and so it is an integral part of Tamil culture. Others are saying the sport can be conducted without inflicting cruelty to the bulls.

However, the entire agitation, and all these arguments in favor of it, are misguided.

The issue is about cruelty to animals. Talk about it being an ancient cultural practice dating from the Sangam period is absolutely meaningless. It only means that Tamil people have been cruel to bulls since the Sangam period. That is not a justification for cruelty. This is like saying that Hinduism should continue caste discrimination because it has been part of Hindu culture for centuries, or that Americans should have continued with discrimination against blacks because it was practiced for centuries.

But do not take my word that Jallikattu is cruel to bulls. Read the Supreme Court judgement. To make it easy for you, I have abstracted the key points from the judgement, as well as given you a link to the entire judgement, so you know I am not lying.

Why Jallikattu is Cruel to Bulls: Summary of the SC Judgement

Here are the facts that people who support the agitation should educate themselves on (I am giving the link to the Supreme Court ruling, which I have now read, so you can confirm for yourselves):

1.     There was an order by the Madras High Court in Madurai in 2007 that upheld Jallikattu.

2.     This was challenged in 2011 in the Supreme Court by two organizations: the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

3.     What is AWBI? It is a statutory advisory body to the government of India on animal welfare issues, created in 1962 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA). This organization regularly advises the Central Government on such issues, and was started under the stewardship of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale, the well-known dancer and humanitarian.

4.     AWBI sent a team to investigate and document the allegations of cruelty to bulls in Jallikattu. The team prepared a detailed report that highlighted several instances of unarguable cruelty to bulls, and presented it in the Supreme Court.

5.     A lot of this cruelty is committed in the holding area called the "vadi vassal" – which spectators cannot see - where the bulls are held before being released into the arena.

6.     The Supreme Court of India considered all the evidence before it carefully and came to the conclusion that the "sport" of Jallikattu indeed did cause unacceptable cruelty to bulls. This verdict was issued in 2014, and made the sport of Jallikattu illegal, as it did bull racing in Maharashtra.

7.     The Supreme Court ruling made it clear that the bull is normally not a combative animal, nor does it normally run fast. It is a docile herd animal that runs only because it feels frightened and terrorized. Therefore, the idea that you can have a "regulated" Jallikattu is ridiculous. The bull runs only when it is terrorized. So, a sport that is predicated on the running of a bull is inherently cruel.

8.    The cruelty is mentioned clearly in the Executive Summary of the judgement (all actual excerpts are shown in italics in this article):

Investigators observed that bulls were forced to participate and were deliberately taunted, tormented, mutilated, stabbed, beaten, chased and denied even their most basic needs, including food, water and sanitation. The findings of this investigation clearly show that bulls who are used in Jallikattu are subjected to extreme cruelty and unmitigated suffering.

These are discussed in detail in the section below. But first see the video that the AWBI presented as evidence in the SC, below.

Details of the Cruelty to Bulls Mentioned in the Judgement (With Actual Extracts)

1.     Cutting the Ears of the Bulls:

At least 80 per cent of the bulls observed had their ears cut, with three-fourths of the external ear pinna absent. When asked about the reason for the mutilation, many bull owners explained that by cutting the ear, the animal would be able to hear sounds even from the back, which they deemed to be very important while the animals are in the Jallikattu arena. Cutting the external ear in no way helps to improve a bulls hearing. Instead, the bull loses his natural ability to receive sounds signals with appropriate positioning and movement of the ear pinna. Cutting the ear causes intense pain and distress as the external ear pinna consists of cartilage and is highly vascular with a rich nerve supply. The procedure leads to physiological, neuroendocrine and behavioral changes in the animal.

2.     Fracture and Dislocation of Tail Bones:

Many bulls suffered from dislocated or even amputated tails caused by deliberate pulling and twisting. The tail, which has nearly 20 small bones, is an extension of the spinal cord and vertebral column. Dislocation and fracture of the tail vertebrae are extremely painful conditions.

3.     Frequent Defecation and Urination by Bulls:

Ninety-five per cent of the bulls were soiled with feces from below the base of their tails and across the majority of their hindquarters. Bulls were forced to stand together in accumulated waste for hours on end. Frequent defecation and urination are indicators of fear and pain in cattle.

4.     Biting a Bull's Tail:

On many occasions, bulls’ tails are bitten by the organizers and owners of the animals in the waiting area and inside the vadi vassal. The vadi vassal is a chamber that is closed off from public view. Abuse runs rampant in vadi vassals. Bulls are poked, beaten and deliberately agitated before they are forced into the Jallikattu arena, where more than 30 bull tamers are waiting. Considered an extremity of the body, a bulls tail has many vertebrae but very little muscle or subcutaneous tissue to protect it. Any direct pressure or injury to the tail bones causes extreme pain that sends bulls into a frenzy.

5.     Twisting a Bull's Tail:

Owners routinely beat the bulls and twist their tails in order to induce fear and pain while they are in the waiting area and the vadi vassal. Many bulls had dislocated or even amputated tails. Frequent pulling and bending of the tail causes extreme pain and may lead to a dislocation and/or fracture of the tail vertebrae.

6.     Poking Bulls with Knives and Sticks:

Many bulls were poked with sticks by owners, police officials and organizers inside the vadi vassal and near the collection yard. People inside the vadi vassal often poked bulls on their hindquarters, aces and other parts of their bodies with pointed wooden spears, tiny knives, sticks and sickle-shaped knives used for cutting nose ropes. Poking bulls with sticks or sharp knives causes immense pain and agitation. Distressed bulls often adopt a flight response and desperately try to escape through the half-closed gates of the vadi vassals. While attempting to flee from people in the arena, agitated bulls often injure themselves when they run into barricades, electric poles, water tanks, tractor carriages, and police watch towers placed inside the Jallikattu arena.

7.     Using Irritants:

Irritant solutions were rubbed into the eyes and noses of bulls inside the vadi vassal in order to agitate them. Eyes and noses are very sensitive, sensory organs, and the use of any irritating chemicals causes pain, distress and an intense sensation. Bulls who try to escape from such torture often end up injuring themselves by hitting walls, gates, fencing and other erected structures inside the vadi vassal and Jallikattu arena.

8.    Using Nose Ropes:

Nose ropes were frequently pulled, yanked or tightened in order to control bulls before they were released into arenas and collection yards. Some animals were even bleeding from the nose as a result of injuries caused by pulling the rope. Pulling or twisting the nose rope exerts pressure on the nerve-rich and extremely sensitive septum, causing bulls pain and making it easier for handlers to force them to move in a desired direction. According to one study, 47 per cent of animals whose noses were pierced had lacerations and ulcerations, and 56 per cent had pus in their nostrils. The study also pointed out that 57 per cent of cattle had extensive and severe nose injuries.

9.     Cramped Conditions:

Bulls were packed so tightly into narrow waiting corridors that they were unable to take a step forwards or backwards. Forced to stand for more than eight hours in line at the waiting area for a health examination and in the vadi vassal, bulls had no protection from the blistering sun and the crowds of people, who shouted and hooted at them, harassed them and frightened them. Bull owners start lining up the night before the Jallikattu event, and they are given serial numbers. Some were in line until the events ended at 2 pm the next day.

10. Forcing Bulls to Move Sideways:

The animals were forced to move sideways at a slow pace for more than eight hours over a distance of approximately 500 to 1000 meters. Forcing bulls to walk sideways, which is an unnatural gait for any animal for a long duration, causes them extreme discomfort.

11.   Lack of Food and Water:

All the bulls observed were not offered food, water or shelter from 8 am, when they were forced to line up, until the jallikattu events ended at 2.30 pm. Though concrete water troughs were available at the registration area and collection yards, none of the animals were offered water. Bulls were so terrified and focused on surviving at the collection yards in Palamedu and Alanganallur that they did not drink water. Several bulls became recumbent and were unable to stand up because of dehydration and exhaustion. Many people kicked, beat and bit the bulls in order to force them back onto their feet.

12.  Forcing Bulls to Drink Liquids:

On many occasions, bulls were forced to drink fluids that were likely liquor. Animals’ heads were raised by pulling on the nose ropes, and the fluids were forced into their mouths using a plastic bottle. Forcing bulls to drink causes them physical discomfort and fear. They often become excited and frenzied as the alcohol affects their central nervous system. Forcing them to drink can also cause the aspiration of fluid in the upper and lower respiratory tracts (lungs). This can cause pneumonia, a serious respiratory disease that can lead to death. Normally, bulls drink water at their own pace from a bucket, but no such allowances were witnessed during any of the Jallikattu events.

13.  Forcing Bulls to Stand in their Own Waste:

In the waiting areas, bulls were forced to wait for more than eight hours while standing in their own feces and urine. No sanitation facilities were made available, and bulls were forced to stand together in the accumulated feces and urine for hours. The accumulated waste attracts flies that bother the animals and cause them discomfort. The eggs laid by the flies may lead to maggot infestation of any wounds the bulls may have.

14.  Spectators Beating and Agitating Bulls:

When collection yards were not present or not used, injured, exhausted bulls were tormented by spectators as they exited. Parallel Jallikattu events happened at each venue as the aggressive crowds agitated the bulls exiting the arena by shouting at them, beating them and jumping on them. Many people, including police officials, beat exhausted bulls with sticks and jumped in front of the bulls in an effort to frighten them. Running for their lives, terrified bulls ran amok, stumbling into shops and houses and slamming into barricades and vehicles parked nearby. Both the bull who died after a head-on collision with a passenger bus in Avaniapuram and the bull who fractured his leg after jumping off a road in Palamedu were running loose when their injuries occurred. Parallel Jallikattu is often considered to be the real Jallikattu, as the most risky action takes place during the deliberate harassment by spectators.

15.  Restraining and Roping:

When bulls entered the collection yard, they were caught using looped rope that was attached to a long stick. At no point were the frightened bulls allowed to calm down. After a long struggle, bulls were captured by handlers who inserted two fingers into their noses and pulled them to the nearest tree while three to four men held their horns and necks using multiple ropes. Once an animal was tied to a tree, a new thick nose rope was forcefully inserted through the existing hole in the nasal septum. Often the rope was very thick, and pulling it vigorously caused injuries to the nasal septum, which led to profuse bleeding in many animals.

The Supreme Court considered all these arguments and evidences carefully and decided that Jallikattu is violative of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and therefore ruled Jallikattu illegal, along with bull racing in Maharashtra.

Now it is possible that all these are lies and never happen. If you wish to claim that, please also let me know what could possibly be the motive of the AWBI to lie about what they saw? On the other hand, how many of those who are protesting this judgement have actually seen what happens in the vadi vassals? I have not, and am relying on the testimony of the AWBI. I find it difficult to believe that they have lied to the SC.

So, proud Tamilian: Consider what culture you want to preserve. Is this - this culture of cruelty - what you are protesting to keep alive? I am a Tamilian, and I am not proud of this cruel culture. I don't care if it has come down from the Tamil Sangam period. It should be stopped.

Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Dr. Seshadri Kumar alone and should not be construed to mean the opinions of any other person or organization, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the article.