Is Jallikattu really cruel, should it be banned ?

Let me first give you a brief about the Meaning of Jallikattu—

Jallikattu also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju Virattu is an event of celebrations during Pongal, controlling bull held in TamilNadu on Maatu Pongal day. Jallikattu is an ancient sport. The seals of the Indus valley civilization depict it, which is proof that this sport was in Vogue 5,000years ago. Ancient Tamil poetry, known as Sangam Literature (2nd BCE—2nd CE), has many detailed references to Eru Thazhuvuthal (hugging the bull). The fact that English colonial administrators have also written about Jallikattru tells us the sport down the ages.

How the sport Jallikattu is played?

The Jallikattu is conducted/played in the following manner: On a certain day in the year, large crowds, chiefly males, assembly together in the morning in some extensive open space, the dry bed of a river perhaps, or of a tank(pond) and many of them may be seen leading ploughing bullocks, of which the sleek bodies and rather wicked eyes afford clear evidence of the extra diet they would have received for some days in anticipation of the great event. The owners of these animals soon gather strength to challenge them all and try to catch and hold them, the best beasts are selected for the day’s proceedings. A new cloth is made round his horns, to be the prize of his captor, and he is then led out into the midst of the area by his owner, and left to himself surrounded by a throng of shouting strangers. This is how the sport is played on the day of Maatu Pongal.

This is concrete evidence to show that Jallikattu has been part of our heritage for quite a longer period in our country. One strong characteristic of life in India is the persistence of certain social institutions, the origins of which are lost. Jallikattu is one such precious heritage that has been preserved over millennia and our duty is to take forward, Of course we should be following rules and regulations for the conduct of the event but jallikattu must go on.

Tamil Nadu had six cattle breeds earlier and now we have lost the Alambadi breed. Native cattle have evolved over millennia, adapting to this local environmental conditions. They are an integral part of farming, the Pulikulam is a semi—domesticated breed. These bulls are known to attack anyone except owners.

Now Let’s Analyse Why Jallikattu matters ?

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 the bulls are brought and exhibited. The one which are agile (Virile) are preferred by nature. The calves from such bulls are in demand. Stud bulls need to be virile, alert, and agile.  In the peak of their reproductive period, they need to secrete necessary male hormones to experience adrenalin rush and pumping hearts. They need this for them to be virile. This is only in the interest of species as selective breeding is done to propagate the species. Stud bulls are used for jallikattu and mating only.

Many people who care for animals don’t understand that nature creates each species with unique characteristics and behaviour, and that within a species, a bull, an ox, a cow, and calf all are different. Native cows do not yield as much milk as the imported breeds. So, they don’t have a supportive breeding programme. 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. Under Article 48 of the Constitution of India the state has to preserve & improve the breeds and prevent slaughter of cows and calves and other draught and milk cattle. Hence the Union government must intervene in this issue.

According to the principles of 1,2,3 of the Convention on Biological diversity (CBD) to which India is signatory state, livestock keepers are creators of breeds and custodians of animal genetic resources for food and agriculture; livestock keepers and the sustainable use of traditional breeds are dependent on the conservation of their respective ecosystems, they are the products of indigenous knowledge and the cultural expression of livestock keepers.

Why do we have so much Opposition to Jallikattu?

Just as we destroyed the lakes of Chennai and suffered the consequences of ignoring the traditional knowledge of villagers in building and maintaining water bodies, we are allowing the same mindset to get away with rampant destruction of our livestock and farming. If we look at the media reports, they all scream about injuries in a Jallikattu event. This is always to sensationalise the event and to grab eyeballs. Now Internet warriors are also echoing without understanding the facts hidden behind it. In a year, there are 10,000 cases of bull leaving the Vaadi Vaasal (gate) during Jallikattu.

From 1,000 players who take part, hardly 50-100 get injured and deaths are much less. We also find there is diary lobby, which wants all native breeds to be eradicated. Jallikattu events throw a spanner in their commercial dairy farms with imported breeds just like in the West. Beef exporters also benefit from a ban on Jallikattu and other events. Farmers bring their cattle to be sold in weekly/monthly/annual Shandies. Brokers will take the cattle from the farmers and will display to buyers, Buyers fall into 3 categories- the jallikattu enthusiast will buy the bulls and male calves mostly, secondly Buyers of Oxen for farming/transport, thirdly buyers of cows for breeding &household, Fourthly Beef traders who are mostly, not all agents of export companies and Slaughter houses based in Kerala. They buy all cattle only for MEAT.

While a ban on Jallikattu is in Place, the simple supply-demand equation gets skewed, the bull is mainly sought by the fourth category i.e., Beef traders. With no demand from Jallikattu the price of such prized bulls falls to rock bottom. By killing the market for bulls to be used in Jallikattu, the animal rights activist are directly responsible for sending them to slaughter houses. There is a huge demand for BOS INDICUS variety beef in the Gulf, Malayasia and western countries. It is considered an exotic and healthy meat, just like country chicken.

There are Misconceptions attached about this sport—Jallikattu has anything in common with Spanish bull fight. Both are very different the sport in India is not about “baiting, or injuring”, but EMBRACING the bull.

Who all filed the Pleas for Ban on Jallikattu?

The pleas have been moved by (PETA) People for Ethical treatment of Animals, Animal welfare Board of India, (CUPA) Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, People for Animals, and various other Animal Right Groups.

Apart from applications for stay on Centre’s notification of January 7, contemptpetitions have also been filed, contending allowing Jallikattu is a violation of Apex courts order in 2014.

SC’s Judgement of 2014 says that the top court had prohibited the use of bulls in ‘Jallikattu’, in festivals holding this practice to be an offence under the Law. The court also further stated that the use of such animals severely harmed the animals and constituted an offence under the prevention of cruelty to the Animals Act. Many people have voiced out for Jallikattu sports during Pongal, Harvest festival for Tamilians. According to reports ban had happened on the basis of Section 3,11,22 not to use bull for performing animals. But Central Government has issued a notification during UPA regime – Section 22 was imposed. The voice who strongly spoke for ban on Jallikattu was Sowmya Reddy, a strong voice along with other NGOs.

The Biodiversity Conservation Council of India (BICCI) has been formed with the intention of preserving the biodiversity of India.It strives to help balance development with the preservation of traditional practices that help conserve the biodiversity of the Nation. They are fighting for this sport to be revived, and they exposed the hypocrisy of PETA.

Frequently Asked questions, Why PETA is using a different entity’s campaign material even in their own FAQ? Will PETA publish its financial statement including FCRA statements, expenses statements? Who funds PETA and Why?

“All these animal welfare organizations who pursued the Jallikattu case needs to be scrutinized by the real animal lovers, public and the powers to be. They only target native breeds and provide lip service to real animal cruelty which involves imported breeds and activities of the rich and mighty.” These are the views of the members of BICCI who want Jallikattu to come in as an event again in the interest protecting the cattle breedand Embracing Bull and our culture which is 5,000 years old and is for reviving it.

Now the Present CM O. Pannerselvam also echoed strongly Tamilians’ views to lift the Ban on Jallikattu for Pongal festival, asking Central Government to issue an ordinance. I hope the above analysis on jallikattu Ban would have made you also to ponder upon the facts that – Why Jallikattu Ban need to be lifted? It’s not only for “Embracing the bull” but also reviving the rich heritage which is age old.

Listen to the Legendary Actor from south who echoes the voice of the masses to lift the ban on Jallikattu-

“If you want to ban Jallikattu, then ban on Biryani too”, he exposed the hypocrisy behind this ban by expressing his views strongly for his support to lift the ban on Jallikattu, while speaking to India Today News Channel’s Managing Editor Rahul Kanwal. Former CM of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalithaa was also of the view that its part of Tamilian culture, hopefully authorities concerned would revisit and let farmers embrace the bull and simultaneously keep our rich traditions & culture alive.

Jai Hind


Dr.S. Sukanya Iyer