Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bullfight is bloody and abusive

The Jallikattu controversy is another case of anthropocentric discourse where the voiceless mute animals have to pay the price (sometimes the ultimate price) for an imagined or nurtured cultural right. What kind of culture dignifies and reiterates the humans’ right to abuse animals? Inebriated intoxicated unemployed youth advocate the cultural rights to feed the adrenaline rush … a hedonistic and voyeuristic cultural practise, at best condemned and exposed for what it is. Persecuting PETA is the same as hunting the hunted ... like it happened in Sariska in 2003 – 04.

If the Government of India does not heed the legal obligations of animal welfare embedded in the constitution and instead pussyfoots to the call of political calculations by issuing a politically convenient ordinance as demanded by the Dravidian parties and the Government of Tamilnadu, the enormous political clout of the Modi led NDA government will fall flat in a court of law! Prime Minister Mr. Modi will do well to exercise discretion because his NDA government has enough political support without the Dravidian Parliamentarians. After all only politically correct opinions will be heeded in a public interest litigation.

This Jallikattu controversy is a cultural manifestation of human animal conflict albeit in this instance it is a domesticated animal. That makes the controversy all the more debatable. How can civilised humans inflict violence and blood and gore in the name of culture on a domesticated herbivorous beast? Yes the same arguments hold good for Spanish and American Rodeo shows too. Three constructive points in last night’s TV debates on NDTV are worth paying attention to:

1.      To institute a wildlife and animal psychology department in all Universities of Agricultural / Veterinarian Sciences and in the Wildlife Institute of India.

2.      Another point is the peaceful nature of protests in emotionally surcharged atmosphere in a state known for emotional displays at every political event. Remarkable restraint! Worth emulation. Or is it because political parties in Tamilnadu do not wantto be seen mobilising support to a sensitive matter that is subjudice? Of the other manifestations of cruelty to livestock during the harvest festival (even in other states) - one of them forces decorated bulls to leap through a ring of fire. It is emotional abuse of domesticated animals that have grown up trusting their masters. It is almost akin to animals doing it to be fed in return. 

3.      Another point raised in the NDTV debate last night – pertaining to temple elephants’ abuse in Kerala also needs attention in the same Public Interest Litigation. Animal abuse in the name of cultural rights in temples across India needs to be halted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Government of India needs to administer such an animal friendly order with ordinances / orders and fiats to the state governments. How many drunken mahouts have been fatally knocked down by temple elephants? It needs to be documented and resolved in this PIL itself.

All those beautiful arguments circulating on WhatsApp about selecting the best breeds of the native bulls are just an afterthought, articulated through social media to elicit public opinion rather than presenting the same argument in the relevant court. The advocates of breed selection will not dare to place this argument in the Supreme Court for the Court will ordain a research study and their bluff will be called. That is why they are circulating it on WhatsApp! Natural selection, manifests as Survival of the fittest in every genre of living beings. Who is Man then to assume the role of elimination of some species of a breed?

Cultural practices do not have to be a part of this process of natural selection, for that skews the natural selection to determine the numbers of the species. That is human manipulation. Argument eliminated.

Historical research is yet to quantify how many domesticated elephants paid the ultimate and bloody price by carrying construction material for the magnificent temples of ancient India. Will the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India please ordain such a research study? We are in an age when blind beliefs are questioned credibly for transparent administration. The animal rights activists’ lobby seeks answers to the above questions from the cultural rights brigade.

To peremptorily counter questions that are likely to be flung at me… yes I practise what I preach, yes am a vegetarian turning vegan. I am also proud of the diverse contributions to the Indian cultural milieu from Tamilnadu. But I assert animal rights over cultural frenzy. Even if this leads to a polarising debate between vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism I am up for it but that divulges from the Jallikattu debate. Every country, every region and territory celebrates harvest festivals, but animal abuse does not belong to the ream of civilised man.

Tamil Pride: No doubt Tamil culture has enriched India’s cultural fabric since millennia… the rich Dravidian Temple architecture, the food recipes, the music compositions, textiles from Kanchipuram and in recent years from Tiruppur, orthodox practices in the temples, … have woven Indian cultural fabric with a grand embellishment, quite unparalleled. The pearls of wisdom in Thirukkurral need to transcend the language barriers for universal betterment! I am not so sure if Tamil chauvinism manifesting in Jallikattu or in Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka have enriched Tamil cultural contribution just as much.  

The petition by PETA is an ethical one – of an activist nature. It does not have to nor is it likely to subscribe to legal provisions but it needs to be exercised from the conscience of the Hon’ble Judicial Members.  Yet there are legal provisions for animal welfare which PETA is only exercising. Banning PETA is not the solution.

Malini Shankar

Malini Shankar is a freelance photojournalist, radio broadcaster, author blogger and documentary filmmaker. She is also the Secretary of Visthar Media Research and Activist Forum (


  1. Absolutely agree with you, Malini. If it is part of tradition, it is high time we move ahead of such traditions. Animal sacrifice is another such disgusting tradition practised in Bengal and Karnataka. I do not understand why such mindless, cruel traditions need to be upheld.

    1. I though animals are killed everyday to provide beef and mutton? What are the "disgusting traditons" of Bengal and Karnataka?

  2. I agree Malini! Unfortunately I've seen people on whatsapp who are not even ready to believe that the bulls are being violently abused and are putting forward such pseudo scientific ideas as weeding out the weaker bulls. Or posting how so called a2 milk is good for us and how we should save our native breeds. Frankly i have trouble understanding how we save them via jallikattu.