Cruelty with animals under the umbrella of tradition.

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated – Mahatma Gandhi

Surely, we respect Mahatma Gandhi but not what he respected. People who do not show gratitude towards animals will soon turn the whole nation in an abattoir where the whole civilization will be slaughtered just because our culture and tradition will remain eternal excuse for us.

In the backdrop of animal cruelty in India in the most visible forms, under the lights of Jallikattu, bullock cart races, cockfights etc., India can altogether be witnessed as the worst habitat for animal and bird species. Right after the first ban on Jallikattu and bullock cart races imposed in 2006 in the form of a judgment of the Madurai bench of the Madras high court, a flood of similar cases has arrived both in the high courts and the apex court. Every such case culminates with a glaring tussle between the law and so called tradition.

Jallikattu case is no exception. Right from 2006 to 2017 and continuing, more than 10 years have passed away and despite of repeated denials by the Hon’ble Supreme court, the centre and Tamil Nadu state government have succeeded in putting up a great companionship in using the backdoor of ordinance way to make the conduction of Jallikattu possible in Tamil Nadu and other parts of India. Though temporary, this great show of friendship shows how much ‘Supreme’ is the Supreme Court and how much our government acknowledges its decisions. In 2014, in a revolutionary decision taken by the Supreme court in the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) vs A Nagaraja case, the Supreme court banned Jallikattu in India citing the following reasons:

The court, based on extensive documentary evidence provided by the Animal Welfare Board of India, concluded that jallikattu, during the conduct of which the bull is forced to do something that is not part of its innate nature, was “inherently cruel”. The evidence provided showed how the animal was tortured just before it leaped out of the “Vaadi Vaasal”, the entrance of the jallikattu arena where hundreds of men stand to jump on the bull and hold its hump. The bulls were fed alcohol, chili powder was rubbed into their genitals and they were constantly poked with sharp weapons. This forces the bull to “take flight [leap out and run]”, which in nature happens only when it is extremely agitated.

Jallikattu is also “unnecessary suffering”, as against killing an animal for meat which is an essential act.

The Supreme Court also refused to accept that jallikattu was Tamil tradition.

“Even the ancient culture and tradition do not support the conduct of Jallikattu or Bullock cart race, in the form in which they are being conducted at present. Welfare and the well-being of the bull is Tamil culture and tradition, they do not approve of infliction of any pain or suffering on the bulls, on the other hand, Tamil tradition and culture are to worship the bull and the bull is always considered as the vehicle of Lord Shiva. Yeru Thazhuvu, in Tamil tradition, is to embrace bulls and not over-powering the bull, to show human bravery. Jallikattu means, silver or gold coins tied to the bulls horns and in olden days those who get at the money to the bulls horns would marry the daughter of the owner. Jallikattu or the bullock cart race, as practiced now, has never been the tradition or culture of Tamil Nadu.”  

 

Any custom or usage irrespective of even any proof of their existence in pre-constitutional days cannot be countenanced as a source of law to claim any rights when it is found to violate human rights, dignity, social equality and the specific mandate of the Constitution and law made by Parliament.”

Jallikattu is dangerous not only to bulls but also to humans participants and spectators sustained serious injuries at all three jallikattu events. A total of 58 participants and 56 spectators were injured in the three jallikattu events. One police constable was also injured in Avaniapuram.

Bull is a calm and placid animal which does not agitate until being hurt or provoked. How it can happen that as soon as doors of vaadi vaasal are opened, the bull drives into the frenzy of pain and fear and run amok. Proofs and evidences have been provided by PETA and AWBI in form of videos and pictures from the jallikattu event taking place in various parts of Tamil Nadu which aggravates the severity of cruelty. This brutality has claimed the lives of more than 40 bulls till now as per the figures provided by AWBI. In 80% of the cases, more than 3/4th of the outer pinna of the bulls was cut apart in order to facilitate hearing of noise coming from the back of the animal, which causes plethora of pain to mute animals. Which of these practices is coherent with the five freedoms for animals as provided by the Supreme Court on 7th may 2014?

i)  Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;

ii) Freedom from fear and distress;

iii) Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort;

iv) Freedom from pain, injury and disease; and

v) Freedom to express normal patterns of behavior.

The Prevention of Cruelty on Animals (PCA) Act has been a toy for the government; it amends it depending on its mood and most importantly, depending on elections. In 2011, UPA-2 government banned the use of bulls as performing animals, but in order to win both hearts and votes of people in the Tamil Nadu assembly elections 2016, NDA government amended 2011 notification, allowing jallikattu and bullock kart races across Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat with specific conditions about which no one cares. The recent ordinance by the state of Tamil Nadu which was passed with the support of central government shows how sensitive the government is for the sake of safety of animals.

Certain challenges have come in the way of banning jallikattu. The hardships which will be faced by the ones who nurture bulls for this event should be clearly addressed and compensated by the government, also the government should put efforts in order to preserve bulls as in case jallikattu is banned, no one will be there to nurture bulls that could lead to their extinction. Bulls play extremely vital role in producing offspring and without their presence, government will have to import bull semen from other countries as it has previously done in Gujarat.

Cruelty offsprings from weakness. Let us wish people would soon realize that animals are totally dependent on us, helpless, like children, a trust that is put upon us. Animals have no voice of their own, so we have to be that voice.

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