The jallikattu took place on Monday in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu as part of the harvest festival of Pongal.
Jallikattu differs from other such sports in the West in that there is no attempt to favor the bull over the humans involved and the bulls are not killed. In jallikattu, the bull’s horns are sharpened and the human competitors are not allowed weapons.
There are variations on jallikattu, but generally the sport involves people attempting to subdue or simply hold onto a bull that is running and thrashing about. Those who can subdue the animal or hold onto him for a predetermined amount of time are awarded prizes.
There has been a lot of attention paid to jallikattu recently, as activists work to have the games outlawed. A recent legal battle brought by activists resulted in jallikattu being banned in 2008, but was later reinstated, albeit with more restrictions.
Even though this sport may seem more tame than bullfighting or the running of the bulls in Spain, there is still an enormous amount of pain and stress involved for the animal, as well as danger for the competitors. Activists have pointed out that although the breeds of bull used in jallikattu are naturally more aggressive than most other breeds, they are often incited to be violent and aggressive by means of extreme pain.
Jallikattu bulls are often force-fed alcohol and have chili sprayed in their faces. The fact that the animals aren’t killed after they’re tortured in such a way doesn’t begin to justify this cruelty. We don’t defend torture of human beings on the grounds that we at least let them live after we were done with them. So why should this flawed logic work when we talk about animals?
In order to host jallikattu, ambulances and medics were waiting outside on Monday, and eleven people were hospitalized from their injuries. Injuries in jallikattu are common.
Indians and Spaniards alike often invoke “tradition” as a catch-all justification for these kinds of blood sports, their cultural pride and sense of masculinity dependent upon their ability to hurt and overpower animals. But the fact that someone has been doing something cruel and wrong for hundreds of years doesn’t make it acceptable right now.
Proponents of jallikattu like to contrast it with Spanish bullfighting, but if you force an animal under duress and pain to fight and compete in a sport that it would never participate in voluntarily, you’ve long since abandoned any moral high ground, even if the animals aren’t killed afterwards.
Jallikattu is no more justifiable than Spanish bullfighting, circuses, zoos, or any other form of entertainment that relies on the coerced participation of animals. Animals do not exist for our entertainment any more than they exist for our consumption. If we want to improve the lives of animals and end the unnecessary injuries suffered by humans in these ludicrous blood sports, we must work to end all forms of bullfighting and animal exploitation.
Photo: Public Domain