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Save Jallikattu : Why the protest at Marina Beach makes sense

19th January 2017.George Kottakal.0 Likes.0 Comments

Jallikattu is a bull taming sport that takes place during “Pongal” which is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu. The practice first finds mention in its written form in Sangam literature which is dated around ( 400 -100 B.C.). Thus the tradition of Jallikatu or “Eru Thazhuvuthal” has a history of over 4000 years.

Some of the other sources include

  1. Seal from Indus Valley Civilisation (dated 2000 B.C.)
  2. Rock painting in the Nilgiris (dated 2000 B.C.)


Credits: Thamizhpparithi Maari


The Supreme court ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu has led to Marina Beach in Chennai being transformed into a rallying point. There is no political party that is spearheading the movement. It is driven through social media. One can hear chants such as  “Ban PETA in India”, “PETA against Jallikattu” and “Save Jallikattu” .

Animal Conservation

Believe it or not, Jallikattu helps in protecting the native breeds of Tamil Nadu which are fast declining. Out of the 6 indigenous breeds that exist in the state, the Alambadi breed is close to extinction. The others don’t have a great future either. With the advent of modern technology and foreign breeds, the native breeds are being driven into extinction. Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu is one way in which the breeds can be conserved. As the ban comes into effect, individuals who have purchased the bull exclusively for sport are forced to send it to the slaughter house. It is important to point out that in Jallikattu, the bull is not killed.

Alambadi breed is close to extinction

Jallikattu is not Spanish Bullfighting

To the majority of the people who hear about Jallikattu, the infamous Spanish bullfighting comes into mind. Aptly put by Raymond Ronamai , here are some of the basic differences:

  1. Jallikattu is a way to identify which is the best breed for mating.
  2. Participants of the Jallikattu sport are not allowed to harm the bull.
  3. During Jallikattu the bulls are not killed.


Judicial Overreach

The Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu is a clear cut case of the judiciary taking the role of the Parliament. In a democratic institution such as India, it is the people who get to decide what laws are made through their representatives. Judicial activism rose in the country as politicians began to stall proceedings in parliament to meet their own political goals. It is for this reason that the judiciary took upon itself to take the role of the Parliament. Unfortunately, this is counter-productive in the long run as the judiciary could take up a dictatorial position similar to what the Pakistani army does in Pakistan. People coming in support of Jallikattu at Marina Beach in Chennai thus hardly comes as a surprise. A few judges have no right to arbitrarily decide the fate of a tradition that has been as old as Indian civilisation.


PETA against Jallikattu

Riding in on the wave of the Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, PETA is against Jallikattu for the publicity. There have been numerous reports in the past such as in the HUFFINGTON POST which has claimed that as many as 96% of the animals received by PETA turn up dead. PETA loves to exaggerate news just to get some press time. In fact, they use graphic advertisements and controversial tactics to attract attention as a matter of policy. However, they justify this in the name of getting the message “out there”. Rather than studying what Jallikattu is all about, they have jumped into a vitriolic campaign into attacking Jallikattu. They aren’t the least bit bothered to try and find a compromise between tradition and animal welfare. They have also overlooked the fact that the very sport they oppose is the only thing that is conserving the indigenous cattle species. This lack of foresight puts a question mark on the level of thought process that PETA takes while taking its stance. It comes as no surprise that there are slogans being chanted such as “ban PETA in India” and ” PETA against Jallikattu”.


Arbitrary thinking on what is cruelty

There are still many who would support the Supreme court ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. One may argue that even a few incidents in Jallikattu where cruelty of the bull takes place must be stopped. The bull is a living being and must be treated with dignity and respect. Could the same not be said about wild animals that are caged up in zoos? They may be fed well but we all know of incidents at the zoo where visitors harass animals, especially the big cats on a regular basis. Everyone know about Harambe. Animals are not meant to be caged but no one bats an eye while watching these animals being held in slavery. The treatment of temple elephants is also worth mentioning. They are bound in chains and given the worst treatment imaginable. Let’s not forget about circus animals as well. The squalid conditions that they live under are always left hidden from the public eye.

Rather than having a knee-jerk reaction to the headlines of animal cruelty one needs to think about the problem objectively. Safeguards are present within the law of the land such as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960. If an organiser is found guilty of conducting Jallikattu in a manner that is considered cruel, then the appropriate action can be taken. Taking the extreme step of a blanket ban just because the cruelty has not stopped is in poor taste. Would the benevolent Supreme Court also ban zoos, circuses and butcher shops next?


For a people who have been under colonial rule for over 200 years, we have endured a lot. Indians were repeatedly told by the British that our culture was inferior and a relic of the past.  Great thinkers such as Swami Vivekananda and others showed that they were wrong. In other cultures where Bulls are killed for sport and entertainment, the people of Tamil Nadu have found an entertaining method of animal husbandry. Is that not worth preserving? With the advent of globalisation we can see colonialism in a new form. Traditional art forms and cultures are dying a slow death as we deny our own heritage by branding it “cruel and insensitive”. As the people assemble in support of Jallikattu at Marina beach, let us hear them out before being so dismissive.


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