Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Jalliikattu ban

Finally, in one more way (and a bit incrementally) India enters a more civilized world where torturing animals* (response to comments questioning torture: see below) is not accepted in principle (though it will continue in practice). "Centuries old" tradition is well and fine but even Devadasi culture was a "centuries old" tradition and no one defends it (as far as we know). Animals deserve our respect (at least not our abuse) and that is also very much part of our tradition.

The true hero in this battle was Union Minister (for environment) Jairam Ramesh who first initiated a ban in 2011. The Tamil Nadu govt played politics (no surprise here) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (aka Delhi Durbar) was playing coalition politics. The MOEF made a petition that cruelty to animals was permissible because of "historic, cultural and religious significance of the event." So what other backward practice shall we re-instate (de-criminalize) by virtue of this special considerations?

Incidentally we @ BP had called for a ban when the bull abuse (as well as spectator injury) stories surfaced and we are delighted that the Supreme Court agrees. Well done!!
The Supreme Court on Wednesday banned Tamil Nadu's centuries-old Jallikattu bull fights.
A bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose also asked the centre to amend the law on preventing cruelty to animals to bring bulls within its ambit.

The court also struck down a 2011 Tamil Nadu law regulating the conduct of Jallikattu. The law provided for conducting Jallikattu from January to May in various places in Tamil Nadu to ensure the protection of not only the participants but also of the spectators. The law was enacted in the wake of a large number of deaths and injuries that took place during the sport.

The ban order came as the apex court allowed an appeal by the Animal Welfare Board of India challenging a Madras high court verdict. 

..... ....... *****Animal rights groups in India on Wednesday welcomed the Supreme Court order, banning use of bulls for entertainment like 'Jallikattu' (a rural sport of taming bulls in Tamil Nadu), and called it a landmark judgment.

The groups also praised the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for refusing to go by the stand taken by the Tamil Nadu government, the 'Jallikattu' Federation and the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) in the apex court.

The PETA has vigorously campaigned against the use of bulls in these cruel events. "Its investigators have found that terrified bulls are deliberately disoriented, have their tails twisted and bitten and are stabbed, punched, jumped on, and dragged to the ground. During races, bulls are often hit with nail-studded sticks. In bull fights, the round ends when one of the bulls is either killed or manages to flee", said Valliyate.

The PETA's campaign to end this abuse was vocally supported by Bollywood actors Hema Malini and John Abraham, who had both written to the MoEF calling for Jallikattu to be stopped.

Stating that "May 7, 2014 will go down in the history of India for this landmark verdict", Nanditha Krishna, chairperson of the Humane Society International-India (HSI-India), noted the crucial role played by the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh for issuing a notification banning use of bulls as "performing animals" in 2011.
In its affidavit in the SC, the MoEF had stated: "In order to strike a balance and to safeguard the interest of all stakeholders including the animals, while keeping in mind the historic, cultural and religious significance of the event and with a view to ensure that no unnecessary pain or suffering is caused to the animals, participants and spectators, the government of India proposes to exempt 'bulls' participating in 'Jallikattu' in the state of Tamil Nadu from the purview of the 2011 notification."

Reacting to such contention, HSI-India chairperson said, "There is nothing intellectual or cultural about fighting bulls. Jallikattu owes its origin to man's domestication of cattle, which gave him the draught power of the bull and milk from the cow...But culture is not static. Just as we have evolved and given up sati, human sacrifice and child marriage, we must give up bull baiting and racing bulls too."

According to the HSI-India, during Jallikattu, bulls are deliberately terrorized and made to suffer for entertainment. They are taunted by crowds, their tails twisted and broken, hit, wrestled to the ground and beaten and prodded with nail studded sticks, not to mention the chilli powder that is thrown into their eyes to craze them or the alcohol poured down their throats.

The Court on Wednesday also noted the penalties for cruelty to animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 are weak and that the act requires an update.