Why Tamil Nadu should give up Jallikattu
The Supreme Court found the practice both cruel and unnecessary.
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As Pongal approaches, proud Tamilians are popularising #Jallikattu and #TNneedsjalikattu. But does Tamil Nadu really need Jallikattu?
Bull-fighting, bull-racing, bullock cart-racing and cock-fighting were banned across India by the Supreme Court. As Dhirio or Kambala or under some other name, bull-racing has been practised in one form or another in Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, etc.
However, Jallikattu has hogged the limelight until it almost seems like Tamil Nadu has been singled out.
The arguments have been many. Jallikattu only means "bull-hugging", essentially holding the hump and running a few paces with the bull to win a prize - a token of bravery and valour.
In reality, there was documented evidence showing that the rules laid down by the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act (2009), which required the mandatory presence of practising veterinarians, barricades and a host of other guidelines to be followed (no injuring, kicking, pulling or biting the tail, etc.), were being flouted blatantly.
The Supreme Court found the practice both cruel and unnecessary. Is it now becoming a habit to contest the Supreme Court? One hopes Tamil Nadu doesn't walk in the footsteps of Kerala.
A sudden concern for the dwindling indigenous breed of bulls has come up. Conspiracy theories abound - milk from indigenous breeds has more vitamin A and European breeds don't; the likes of PETA are hand in glove with MNCs and want to wipe out indigenous breeds.
While social media has power and is a great medium to stay informed and express one's opinions, using it responsibly is an art we all need to learn.
When I spoke to Niranjan Shanmuganathan, a plant biologist and HRD psychologist who has been working with PETA as a volunteer for the last 13 years, he confirmed that PETA advocates veganism which in itself involves shunning the dairy industry as a whole.
"We cannot possibly work to benefit any particular breed because we're not only against dairy farming, we're also against artificial breeding," he said.
Although the Supreme Court and PETA have been largely silent about indigenous breeds, it is something that one needs to talk about.
Here's what breeding involves - selecting the top pick of a bunch and doing away with the rest. That is also a purpose that Jallikattu serves. The bulls that win are for keeps.
This smells no different from a puppy mill to me. Let's also not forget that breeds are made by man. Not only is that playing with nature, breeding by definition is a cruel process that involves killing the "weak", "not so good-looking", "ill" or "not so productive" animals.
And what did you think happens to the bulls who don't do well in the Jallikattu? Who get injured or maimed? They end up on someone's plate as maattu curry (beef stew).
But culture and tradition are above all else. The wire carried an article on how deeply intertwined Jallikattu is in Tamil Nadu's culture. It talks about going 5,000 years back, somewhere in the Indus Valley region where a brave cowherd needs to control a bull gone astray for fear that he may hurt cows and calves in the herd.
So he bravely holds the hump of the bull to control him. It's 5,000 years later and we seriously need to be looking ahead. Today cows spend their whole lives tied to a post. Calves are separated from the cows the day they are born. There is no bull running around threatening to gore anyone to death.
These bulls are being raised and reared by people for the sole purpose of Jallikattu. They are close to humans. They do not feel animosity towards them. So they must be intoxicated with alcohol before the event, prodded with sticks, someone pulls their tail while another nicks them with a knife just to get them irritated enough. The bulls run amok in fear and anxiety.
Most likely, the people so fervently fighting for Jallikattu on social media haven't ever been part of one. That's ok. We all have an opinion in a civilised society. But here's what makes a society civilised - shedding the old and the unnecessary and embracing the new. That's how you move forward.