Tamil Nadu

End of ‘bull run’

Print edition : May 30, 2014

Jallikattu at Palamedu in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, this January. Photo: R. ASHOK

DESCRIBING it as inhuman, the Supreme Court, on May 7, banned “jallikattu”, (bull taming), an ancient sport of Tamil Nadu, and also the bullock cart racing (Rekla racing) prevalent both in Tamil Nadu and in Maharashtra. The court said the animals do have rights against any form of torture.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Misra, delivering the verdict on a petition filed by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), pointed out that harming animals, bulls in this case, would amount to an offence under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It further said: “Forcing a bull and keeping it in the waiting area for hours and subjecting it to the scorching sun is not for the animal’s well-being. Forcing and pulling the bull by a nose rope into the narrow, closed enclosure called ‘vaadivasal’ [entry point in Tamil], subjecting it to all forms of torture, fear, pain and suffering by forcing it to go into the arena and overpowering it in the arena by bull tamers, are not for the well-being of the animal.”

The Bench pointed out that the AWBI had described how “jallikattu” was conducted across Tamil Nadu and how the animals were subjected to torture and cruelty. “We notice that the situation is the same in Maharashtra too,” it observed.

It said the organisers deprived the animals of their rights guaranteed under Section 3 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. “Sadism and perversity are writ large in the actions of the organisers of ‘jallikattu’ and the event is meant not for the well-being of the animal but for the pleasure and enjoyment of human beings,” the court said.

The Bench also hoped that Parliament would elevate the rights of animals to that of constitutional rights, as done by many other countries. It struck down the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act No 27 of 2009, saying that the Central law in this regard would prevail.

Citing cruelty to bulls, animal welfare activists have clamoured for a ban on “jallikattu” for several years. The Madras High Court had banned the sport a few years ago. But the issue was taken to the Supreme Court, which, following a strong appeal from the Tamil Nadu government, allowed it after issuing a series of stringent conditions to be followed by organisers. “But the regulations are followed more in the breach,” claimed activists.

The apex court further directed governments and the AWBI to take steps to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals. It said: “All living creatures, including animals, have inherent dignity and a right to live peacefully and right to protect their well-being.”

R. Ilangovan