Jallikattu q&a – to help ‘cat-on-the-wall’ people

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: Jallikattu & I: Filmmaker CS Amudhan’s Unique Take]

“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.

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padhs2k Written by:

Another dream-chaser.

10 Comments

  1. Beautifully portrayed the thoughts around Jallikattu with right analogies!! Nethiyadi!

    • padhs2k
      January 21
      Reply

      Thanks kirthika :).

  2. Anonymous
    January 19
    Reply

    Great article! I loved it!

    • padhs2k
      January 21
      Reply

      Thank you Mr.Anonymous 🙂

  3. January 21
    Reply

    Great Post !! You have debunked lot of myth and streamlined lot of information regarding Jalikattu in logical manner. This post should get much wider publicity !

    • padhs2k
      January 21
      Reply

      Great to hear from you again! Thank you and hope you are doing good!

  4. V K
    January 22
    Reply

    Regarding your explanations to various questions,

    1. Yes, there are a lot of dangerous sports. Boxing, wrestling, rugby motor racing all pose a risk to human life. But the basic point that you missed is that ALL participants in these sports are well aware of these risks and consent to participate. For example, both the boxers in a boxing match know the risks involved and then consent to participate. You forgot to consider the bull as a participant in jallikattu. How does the bull understand the risks involved and give its consent ? Car racing is practiced by consenting humans driving a non-living machine. A bull is a living being, and NOT a machine. Gladiator fights were in the Roman culture and the gladiators actually loved and respected performing in the circus. Most often than not, they ended up getting killed. So, just because it was ‘culture’ and the gladiators themselves loved and respected it, should we continue with it in this age ? Before you argue about other sports involving animals, I’ll come to that too.

    2. If something is wrong by logic, it is wrong no matter if an outsider or insider or an organisation or an individual points it out. Yes, slaughtering animals is wrong in any form. Pointing out other wrongs does not validate your own wrong. Just because Salman Khan goes free even after running over people, doesn’t mean you will do the same and cite this as an example. Please provide the scientific reason of how jallikattu ensures higher quality of milk. As regarding it being practiced since ancient times, so were the practices of sati and child marriage. Should they be continued as well ?

    3. Yes, stressing any animal for performance in any sport is wrong. Again, pointing out other such examples doesn’t validate your own wrong. Instead, people should be protesting to put an end to all such practices which stress animals. Milking an animal for your own benefit would also be a stress which is actually something for which you want jallikattu to continue. Aren’t you contradicting yourself here ?

    4. You rightly conceded that your analogy was flawed. But you didn’t actually understand why it was wrong in the first place. The victims in the Bangalore incident were females. They were humans who could communicate. If a female faces misbehavior she can report it, as was done by many of the victims in the Bangalore incident who complained to the police. But bulls are unable to communicate. Even if 999 of 1000 jallikattu events are organised without any stress to the bulls, the bulls which face torture in even the one event where rules are broken would not be able to complain. Animals cannot consent or complain. Same as the case with children. We do not apply implied consent for children for that very reason.

    So please stop pointing out other atrocities against animals to validate your own. Instead fight against all atrocities. Do not cite emotional arguments such as culture and sentiments attached to them. Just because something has been practiced for long does not validate it being right. Finally, do not attach pride with some tradition.

    • padhs2k
      January 23
      Reply

      Hi VK, I’m glad that you read the article. Which means you are open to reading about Jallikattu and knowing more about it. So. let’s discuss your points now.

      The problem we all deal with when speaking about animals is whether to consider them as our equal or not. Our heart says that since animals are living creatures just like us, they deserve the same amount of respect that we give to humans. And we all think we are giving respect. But let’s take a look at ourselves, shall we?
      We clear our forests (which are the wildlife’s home btw) to make space for us humans.
      We capture various kinds of animals (birds, turtles, dogs, cats, snakes to name a few) from their natural habitat, call them as our “pets”, tie them inside/outside our homes while we leave to work.
      We captured and tied up pigs who once roamed everywhere in town freely because, they were causing diseases in us “humans” (ever wonder what happened to them?)
      Whenever we see a snake, we beat it and try hard to kill it.
      We take in the food that bees toil to make, sell it and relish it.
      We actually take the milk that cows produce for their calves, and sell it to humans. So do you give up milk and milk products?
      We eat meat.
      We place electrical things, which attract mosquitos and kill them “before” they can even touch us. Because, in our eyes, you see, OUR life is more important than theirs. To put it bluntly, though we all like to “think” we like to treat animals as equals, in reality, we don’t. We all like to though.
      We humans are greedy and we feel our need to survive is more important than theirs. That is a sad, blunt and true fact.

      That said, let’s come to Jallikattu. Don’t ever compare that to Sati or other rituals, without knowing the science behind Jallikattu.
      You should know by now that jallikattu is what adds virility to the bulls, and how the best of the bulls is selected and allowed to breed with the cows to give A2 milk. If you do not know that, please go ahead and google jallikattu and how that relates to A2 milk production. There must be hundred of articles on that topic. You will get your scientific reason. In case you want a quick answer, I have pasted an excerpt from an expert on this topic. This is from him -“Domestication of animals usually tend to develop submissive behavior in animals. It’s a proven fact. Those animals find hard to attract the females. That is the reason why you need bulls with the aggression in their breed lineage to be given the opportunity for them to become dominant.

      Now there’s something called biostimulatory effects of bulls on cows. When bulls pushed to their limits naturally, the testosterone secretion gets high. It’s another proven fact how adrenaline affects the testosterone. So when the bulls have the satisfaction of a win/survive a predator, they become confident. Naturally confidence has an effect mentally and lowers the pulse frequency of temporal patterns of cortisol (hydrocortisone – an adrenal hormone related to the mentality). Cows are more attracted to those with low pulse frequency and increasing their luteinizing hormone (LH) pulse frequency allowing the acceleration of ovulatory cycle in primiparous, postpartum, anovular, suckled and beef cows. Even the anovular cows can be treated with biostimulatory effects of bulls which are induced naturally. Of course there can be variations on few occurrences. But high percentage of mating success happens with the confident/dominant bulls high on testosterone.” Hope this was scientific enough for you.

      But don’t go yet, I wanted to focus on what YOUR solution to the upkeep of bulls would be if they are banned from jallikattu. What do you propose would happen to the bulls that were originally intended for jallikattu and mating??

      We all do something only because we get something out of it. You go to work, because it pays you money. Villagers invest in cows because they know they can sell milk from cows. They are beneficiary to them. A lot of money would go into taking care of a cow, and if not for milk, they wouldn’t be able to afford the upkeep of the cow.

      Let’s take a bull now. At first bulls were used in farming. Then it became mechanized and tractors replaced bulls. So bulls are not required for this purpose. What other purpose for a bull are there? Just mating then. Mating with a purpose.
      i.e. to get milk from a cow, the cow has to be lactating, which means it should have reproduced a calf. For reproduction to happen, the need for a bull arises.

      Now one may ask, why can’t the farmer just raise a bull for mating purpose alone and not conduct jallikattu? For those people, I want to say, you have to live in a village, be poor, and ask these questions. People spend Rs.300 every day just on feed for a bull alone. This on their Rs.500 income. Now, jallikattu may not yield so much money to the farmers, but it is one festival they look forward to. They invest in their bull, spend on their upkeep just to make sure their bull wins at jallikattu and later reap benefits when their bull gets selected to service the cows. Now, not all bulls are allowed to participate in Jallikattu, only native stud bulls are allowed. And when the mating happens between the best native stud bull and native cows, we get A2 milk, which are highly nutritious when compared to A1 milk that jersey cows impregnated artificially produce.

      Let’s take a scenario that jallikattu is banned forever. Then farmers will no longer have any reason to keep a bull with them.
      Don’t forget, western cows impregnated with injections yield 9 times as much milk(a1) when compared to our native cows impregnated with our native bulls. So with no use in ploughing, farming, reproduction – our bulls will only be sold to slaughter house for meat. That’s exactly what’s happening.

      From 10 lakh bulls in 2012, they have come down to 70,000, and one of the reasons for their decline was jallikattu-ban. Jallikattu is not a mere sport, it is the livelihood of farmers. It is breeding science.

  5. V K
    January 26
    Reply

    Well, this was amazing to read. I am sure you must have consulted lots of scientific journals to provide this ‘scientific’ information.

    You have tried to use physiological factors as a basis for an event. I intend to inform you that mating and breeding are not the physiological processes limited to the breeds of bulls participating in jallikattu. Instead of going far, just in the case of mammals, there are countless examples of how many species depend on virility of the mating partner to ensure continuation of the species and their population. Something which is known as natural selection. And this process has been going on for ages even before humans stepped in.

    Do you mean to say animals like the lion, elephant, giraffe in the wild and horses, camels, and cattle in the domestic areas depend on human assistance to ensure virility. Male dominance for the purpose of mating is achieved through male-male competition of the ‘same’ species. No animal specie on this planet depends of competing with humans to achieve dominance and therefore, increased virility to be able to mate. That is exactly how male animals in all parts of the world mate where jallikattu is not held.

    By the way, the plasma half-life of testosterone is 2-4 hours whereas that of hydrocortosone is 66 minutes. Unless the bulls which are successful in jallikattu are taken for mating immediately after the event, I don’t understand how the adrenaline rush is used as the basis for increased virility for mating. The testosterone that you refer to for mating has little relationship with adrenaline if any. Instead of adrenaline, the testosterone is dependent upon the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and to some extent on the anterior pituitary in a feedback mechanism. Adrenaline is not responsible for the maintenance and function of testosterone. So whatever ‘science’ you quoted is not really relevant to this issue.

    Actually, you are shifting the responsibility of the humans who do not care for bulls unless they expect a benefit in return, on to an event. In fact, you yourself say that bulls would be slaughtered if there is no expectation of a benefit that is expected by the farmers from jallikattu. So, it is actually the bull owners who are the cause of the dwindling population of the bulls. But instead, you shift the blame on the stopping of an event. Isn’t it similar to saying that child marriage is important for girls otherwise they would be aborted in the womb?

    No one is complaining about why any bull is sent to be slaughtered. Because that is the fault of us humans? And you say that jallikattu is important because it prevents the bulls from being slaughtered! Great!

    When one starts giving multiple reasons for something, they are most often than not simply excuses. It is being said that jallikattu is required on the basis of science, economic benefits, evolution, culture, pride, etc. But no one is addressing the actual reason behind it. And surely no one is protesting about why any bull is sent to the slaughterhouse because of a human’s greed or even why are bulls castrated specially if they do not participate in a particular event.

  6. V K
    January 26
    Reply

    Oh and I missed out on your point on giving respect to animals. You said that giving priority to human life is a sad but blunt truth. But then you compare mosquitoes with bulls. Mosquitoes are killed before they even touch us. Agreed. But they don’t touch us to give us a kiss. They require blood. And in turn they may leave micro-organisms which may even kill the person they suck the blood off. Is it too hard to see where the priority lies? If you compare bulls in the same way, which bull will enter your room to attack you because of which we can apply the same logic as mosquitoes to bulls? Torturing a bull which has otherwise no business troubling us and comparing that to killing a mosquito is absurd.

Yes, go on, tell me what you think!