Just recently we celebrated “Pongal” here in Dallas amongst a crowd of Tamilians. To make it culturally homey, the organizers included few Tamil related activities for everyone, which included “uriyadi” (almost like the game of pinata) and the petting an animal…you guessed it, cow.
So this cow was a beautiful greyish maned one named Agnus. She was very sweet and allowed all the kids/adults to feed her and pet her. After some time, she was brought along a pathway, which was lined up on both sides by few people. As the cow proceeded in the path, I couldn’t tell if the cow looked confused(because..yeah I couldn’t), but I could tell for sure that the owners looked mighty concerned, for just those few minutes.
Now, it was very evident that every single person there loved Agnus and didn’t do anything to harm her. But the American cow and her owners, though they could feel the love of the people, felt a bit scared of the whole process because it was alien to them. Not to blame them, this was a whole new process for them.
How is this related to Jallikattu, you ask? Just wanted to put it across that human interactions with an animal whatever it maybe, will generally give some stress to the animal. And that sentiments would vary from person to person, depending on how connected they are with a process.
Me, for instance, whenever the issue of Jallikattu was brought to the table before, I felt that I was looking through a two-way-mirror. I could understand the concerns of PETA (or the Jallikattu protesters) and could also understand the concerns of Jallikattu supporters and how it helps to support an entire breed. And there have been times I heard myself saying, there are more pressing issues at hand, why is everyone speaking about Jallikattu. But hey, a person can change, can’t she? I am not rigid in my thinking and am pretty sure most of you are not.
The many many articles I read, and some Madurai people I met (who have witnessed Jallikattu) made me understand Jallikattu better and take a stance on why I should support Jallikattu, the sport. And no, it wasn’t the mob mentality. And no, it was not because it being called our “Tamil culture”. I am Tamilian and I got my knowledge of it only by listening to “people who have witnessed Jallikattu” and from reading about it.
The questions that were on my mind earlier, might be on yours too, the non-Tamilians who have no idea of how the sport is carried out, and the Jallikattu protestors – who think this sport hurts bulls. I have listed those novice questions which were on my mind earlier and the answers I obtained for them. Hope this helps you in some way.
Q1. We all know Jallikattu is a dangerous sport. Forget bulls, humans get injured very badly and sometimes even killed. I wouldn’t play it. So why shouldn’t it be banned – if not for reasons on animal cruelty, but for reasons that people get badly mauled?!?
Well first off, there is danger associated with any sport. Jallikattu is no exception.
Think about car/motorcycle racing. People enter car racing knowing that it is a dangerous sport, and that they can get badly hurt or even lose their life. But that doesn’t deter them from entering the sport. Racers participate in car racing, because of the adrenaline rush it gives them and because of their love for it. They turn a blind eye to the risks associated with the sport. You can’t blame them for it. All you can do is try to understand their love and respect it. It would be crazy to ban racing altogether.
The same applies for Jallikattu. People know they can get hurt, but they participate in it willingly, because of their love for the sport. And there are rules in place for Jallikattu, just like for any other sport. Only fit people are allowed to register for it, so not all people are allowed to participate. And like for any other sport, participants are well aware of what Jallikattu is about, and their love for it is like your love for any other sport. If you cannot understand it, at least respect it. So well, banning Jallikattu because people might get hurt is not a good idea, sorry.
Q2. Why do you think PETA is wrong about Jallikattu? Why are Tamil Nadu youths fighting PETA?
PETA is an outside organization which ‘says’ it opposes Jallikattu because of the animal cruelty associated with it. Now, if that was true, then animal cruelty means all slaughter houses should be banned by PETA, but then leather industries would also take a fall. But seriously, would that happen?
Secondly, Jallikattu is not a bull “fight” as portrayed by PETA. Heck, you’d have to hold onto a bull for some moments to fight it, which is extremely difficult in Jallikattu! The problem is that media and news mongers for many many years have only reported the injuries associated with Jallikattu and have never mentioned how and why Jallikattu is carried out. So it’s no wonder Jallikattu is only seen as a wild sport and nothing beyond that by city folk in all states.
Jallikattu is the pride of Madurai people. They live for it and look forward to Jallikattu the whole year. It’s a festival for them. Imagine saying Santa Claus is not real, we are fooling our kids, so we should ban Christmas to US. Wouldn’t that get them enraged? Madurai people have the same sentiments. Though it was a bad analogy I gave, the idea behind it is, to understand the sentiments of the people, you will have to be them or respect them from a distance.
As for what really happens at Jallikattu, this is an excerpt from a person who has seen Jallikattu with his own eyes. [Original Post:
“If you don’t know what Jallikattu entails, now is the time to tell you. There is NO bullfight, there is NO taming. You just have to see how big those things are to understand how laughable that notion is. An average bull weighs upwards of a ton. A TON!
The usual sequence is, a bull comes charging out of the vaadi vaasal and runs headlong towards the exit. If a person from among the crowd manages to hang on to its hump for a reasonable distance, I forget exactly how much, he is deemed a winner. He usually gets a small gold-coin along with some clothes and some vessels. That’s it.
I can tell you this, any punter who tries to harm the bull is not getting out of there alive. If the bull doesn’t get him, its owner will.
…on that day, around 300 bulls were released…These bulls did not charge head-long from the entrance, instead they emerged at a trot and then stood still and gave the crowd the eye. It’s a throwing down of the gauntlet.
The bull slowly turns around in a semicircle and eyes the crowd disdainfully. It seems to say “I’m not afraid of you”. This is called ninnu vilayadrathu (stand & play). These bulls get the loudest cheers and make their owners proud.
When finally the last bull had been released, it was nearly 3 pm but the revelry continued late into the evening.”
I should say, before the ban, not every one knew what happened during Jallikattu. Now, thanks to the ban, every single Tamilian (and their friends, thanks to newsfeed!) knows that Jallikattu is more than a mere sport. (By now, if you have not read about how Jallikattu is linked to cattle breeding and to the healthy A2 milk production, you must live in a cave). So apart from knowing that Jallikattu had been in vogue for ages, (since Indus Valley civilization according to one article), reading about how carrying out Jallikattu can save A2 milk for the next generation, got all the youngsters protesting against the ban.
So no, it was not mob mentality that made the crowd gather in Marina. Everyone had an understanding of Jallikattu and they didn’t want to give in to a foreign organization who they felt didn’t give the entire picture to SC.
Q3. But just looking at the pictures of Jallikattu made me feel sorry for the bull…isn’t Jallikattu stressful on the bulls and hence be banned?
To be fair, ALL animal related sports where human interaction is present, will put some strain on the animal. If we were to ban all human-animal interactions, we should actually ban zoos. And also the dollar minting dolphin and whale shows, that have humans riding on the back of sea animals, just for show biz. So yes, all animal entertainment will have some level of stress on the animals.
Take horse racing for example. The training starts way early. Horses as young as 2 year olds are trained for racing. One study on injuries at racetracks concluded that one horse in every 22 races suffered an injury that prevented him or her from finishing a race, while another estimated that 3 thoroughbreds die every day in North America because of catastrophic injuries during races. This from a PETA site – http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/horse-racing/
The article shows clearly that many horse trainers pump heavy doses of illegal drugs to horses to make them perform better. These drugs had resulted in deaths of many horses. And guess what PETA has said at the end of the article? It did not ask for a ban on horse racing. But instead it stated, racing regulations be reformed and enforced!!
As for Jallikattu, each bull will be in the arena for few minutes. For those moments that the bull is in the arena, it might feel stressed, yes, same as the men who are in the arena. Same as the petting animals in a farm. Same as the dolphins who you paid money to touch and play with at Sea World. The interactions might be different, but wouldn’t the animals be stressed out during every interaction? So do we ban them all? Or would the solution be to regulate the activity?
Q4. Forget PETA, as an outsider, I am pretty sure that bulls are mistreated in Jallikattu. PETA may not be 100% right, but are they entirely wrong in saying that bulls are poked and offered alcohol before they enter the arena? So why shouldn’t Jallikattu be banned to ban cruelty to bulls?
Well, think of it this way. If there was a woman’s organization which came out right after the Bangalore New Year’s eve incident and said ALL men are molesters, that they should be banned from society and from speaking to women, would that make sense? (Again, yes, bad analogy, but am trying hard to relate this to urban activities)
Likewise, banning Jallikattu entirely because some organizers don’t follow the regulations correctly wouldn’t be right. Most of the organizers of Jallikattu are professionals, they carry out Jallikattu following all rules and regulations in place. There are rules to ensure that only a physically fit bull, who has not been administered any performance enhancing drugs, be allowed to participate in that sport. But just like there are rule followers, there are rule breakers too. There are people who administer alcohol to the bull and have been known to hurt the bull before it leaves the vaadi vaasal(gate). But in 2009, Tamil nadu government came up with Tamil Nadu Jallikattu (Regulation) Act, which tried to address almost most of the animal cruelty issues raised earlier.
Do check it out and you will find how many restrictions were placed to address PETA’s issues that were raised earlier. https://www.scribd.com/document/217701283/Tamil-Nadu-Regulation-of-Jallikattu-Act-2009-Naresh-Kadyan. But PETA didn’t seem satisfied and took it to SC and you know the story.
Portraying all bulls to be mistreated by everyone and giving the impression that Jallikattu doesn’t have any rules and regulations in place, is completely bull! (yes, I know I said it). It would be like (another analogy coming up) banning IPL because some cricketers do betting.
The solution to Jallikattu issue would not be to ban the sport, but to put stricter rules in place banning people who don’t follow rules.
So let me end by saying, I love animals, just like you all and just like PETA. But I want Jallikattu to happen because it is not cruel to bulls like PETA portrays it to be.
So far it has been portrayed as a Tamilian issue by the entire north media, mainly because the sport originated in TN and has been followed in villages of TN. But when you consider the problem of so many breeds of Indian cows dying, or being sent to slaughter houses if not for Jallikattu, it makes the ban a national issue. So north Indians, and non-Tamilians, please don’t shove the issue aside and help to spread the word.