Why ban on ‘Jallikattu’?
We are now obligated to clear some misconceptions about this tradition.
Jallikattu is an ancient sport. 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 the bull) now called as Jallikattu.
100 years ago, there were morethan 130 cattle breeds in India and now there are only less than 30 breeds exist. We will soon lose these breeds as well as lay the ground for commercial cattle based dairies and slaughterhouses to dominate the country.
In Tamil Nadu, there are more than six cattle breeds and we already lost the Alambadi breed. The remaining breeds are Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Barugur and Malai Maadu. There are a few more minor breeds without proper documentation or care and all these are on the verge of extinction.
Jallikattu matters a lot as stud bulls are reared by people for jallikattu. The ones that win are much in demand for servicing the cows. Small farmers cannot afford to keep stud bulls, so each village has a common temple bull which services the cows of the village. Jallikattu is the show where bulls are brought and exhibited. The ones which are most agile (and virile) are preferred by farmers. The calves from such bulls are in demand.
The connect between jallikattu and farming can be seen from the chronological order in which showcase events like jallikattu happen first, then the shandies and then the main farming season starts. After harvest, farmers take their bulls to participate in such events over the next few months; spectators and visitors make a note of the top bulls and seek them out in cattle markets which happen from December till April all over Tamil Nadu. People who care for animals don’t understand that nature creates each species with unique characteristics and behavior and that within a species, a bull, an ox, a cow and calf all are different.
Male calves in other regions are sold and taken for slaughter in a few days. Only in regions where there are events like jallikattu are they kept.
Native cows do not yield as much milk as the imported breeds. So they don’t have a supportive or sponsored breeding program. Artificial means are not adopted for native breeds. So as a fall out of the banning of jallikattu, they will soon fade away and become extinct.
Urban disconnect with rural India and dairy lobby are two angles to opposing jallikattu. Media screams about injuries in a jallikattu event to create the news more sensational. In Tamilnadu, there are more than 10000 instances of a bull leaving the vaadivaasal (gate) during jallikattu and thousands of players take part in this event and less than 50 get injured in a year.
The dairy lobby group, wants all native breeds to be eradicated and want to create the way for their plan of creating commercial dairy farms with imported breeds just like in the West.
There are many misconceptions on jallikattu. Jallikattu is not about baiting or injuring the bull but of “embracing the bull”. It is said that cruelty is meted out to animals by giving them alcohol, prodding and twisting their tails, confine them in a dark, suffocating place in order to enrage them.
The reality is different. Amidst all the regulations and scrutiny, which bull owner will risk giving alcohol to the bulls? Glucose water is given to them for stamina. Out of the 10,000 instances of bulls let out a year, the anti-jallikattu activists have produced images and videos of maybe 4-5 bulls where an offense might have taken place. They have the power to identify the owner and take action against him under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Each bull is registered with the authorities, with photographs as well as the owner’s information.
People who want a ban on jallikattu are far removed from village life and do not know how this chain works. The Supreme Court and the Government of India need to look at the big picture behind jallikattu.
India has already lost many cattle breeds and it can’t afford to lose anymore.