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Jallikattu- An Analysis

What is Jallikattu?

Jaliikattu is a traditional bull taming sport conducted during the harvest festival of Pongal in mid-January. Also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu, the sport involves a natively reared stud that is set free inside an arena filled with young participants. The challenge lies in taming the bull with bare hands. the practice of Jaliikattu even predates the famous Spanish bull fighting and dates back to as far as 2000 years ago. The epicentre of the sport lies in Madurai-Theni stretch of  Tamilnadu. Indigenous breeds are used in the sport and Breeders often claim they treat the bulls like their own children and spend large sums of money towards their upkeep.

When is the issue started?

The issue behind the recent turmoil starts with the Environment Ministry’s notification back in 1991 banning the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs. The notification was challenged by the Indian Circus Organisation before the Delhi High Court, and after prolonged litigation, the legality of the notification was upheld. Later in 2011, the Ministry added bulls to its 1991 notification banning the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs. The notification was challenged in the Supreme Court and was upheld in 2014. The apex court said, “bulls cannot be allowed as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the state of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.” The SC order also identified “the five freedoms” of animals, including
  1. freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition,
  2. freedom from fear and distress,
  3. freedom from physical and thermal discomfort,
  4. freedom from pain, injury and disease,
  5.  freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.
Last year, the ministry modified its earlier notification and declared that the sport could continue despite the existing ban. This was in direct contravention of the apex court order and was duly challenged by animal welfare organisation such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).Subsequently, a stay order was issued by the court. Political situations in the state lead to turmoil especially in regions of Chennai and Madurai.

Arguments by Protesters

  • Jallikattu organisers, and now the protesters, argue that the ‘sport’ is a way of life in these parts and that it is a tradition that goes back over 2,000 years.
  • They counter the cruelty argument by saying that Jallikattu bulls are specifically identified, trained and nourished for these events and that owners spend considerable amount money for their upkeep.
  • Protesters point out that the bull is never harmed, maimed or killed by design, unlike the celebrated Spanish sport also they They point out the inconsistencies in a society that doesn’t have a problem with a bull being whipped every day as it pulls a cart, but arbitrarily deems the taming of a bull in a quasi-sporting event that is held once a year to be ‘cruel’.
  • Besides, they say, banning Jallikattu will destroy the native breed since the sport is probably the only reason farmers keep these animals.

Arguments against Jallikattu

  • Two parties who have opposed Jallikattu in court, AWBI and PETA, had submitted various reports, affidavits and photographs to prove “cruelty” involved in the event.
  • AWBI argued that Jallikattu bulls are “physically and mentally tortured” for “human pleasure”
  • Some critics point out that the sport is not safe for the participants, both human and bovine.
  • The stiffer and stuffier critics point out that the entire discussion is pointless because the Supreme Court has made its decision, and we must all respect it. “Rule of Law, above all else
  • The apex court had held that Jallikattu was not only in violation of the statute but also the fundamental duties imposed on citizens, under Articles 51A(g) and (h) of the Constitution, to have compassion for living creatures and develop humanism.

How did government respond?

      In order to overcome the Supreme Court order, the government of Tamil Nadu has promulgated the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Ordinance, 2017. Centre cleared the ordinance later, ending the crisis at least for some time.


     Though it remains a culture, cruelty against animals must be prevented if any. Strict monitoring measures must be implemented in due period for protecting the animals. Schemes like Rashtriya Gokul Mission can be effectively leveraged for protecting the indigenous breeds. A strong government decision with follow up actions can solve the problem.