The Supreme court’s recent ban on Jallikattu has been welcomed by animal lovers and animal rights activists in the country. This landmark judgement has reignited the debate about the limits of judicial reach in the cases of long held cultural practices and also about the question whether animals also enjoy certain rights like right to life just like human beings do.
Jallikattu is a bull taming sport held every year in southern Tamil Nadu during Pongal. This sport like its counterpart in Spain, is a dangerous one. Injuries during the event are common to both the participants and the bulls. Certain breeds of bulls are specially reared for this sport. Jallikattu is also mentioned in Sangam and other classic Tamil literature.
Notwithstanding the denials of its organizers to the contrary, cruelty towards the animals is certainly part of the sport: the Bull is made angry and difficult to tame by throwing chili powder in to its eyes. Though the sport is part of Tamil culture for thousands of years, the question here is whether this repugnant cruelty has any place in today’s civilized world.
However, instead of a total ban on using bulls in the festival, the festival organizers might be encouraged to stop cruel practices towards the bulls and follow safety measures to make the sport more interesting and less dangerous.