The South Indian Bull Fest & the Curious Case of PETA


I came across this picture and nostalgia struck me so hard. I remembered all those calves I played with during my childhood, I remembered those fond memories of getting injured and getting scolded by my grandma.

Jallikattu, or bull fighting, is an ancient Dravidian tradition that was practiced about 4,000 years ago during the Indus Valley civilization. A seal found at Mohenjodaro in the 1930s attests to this.

Bull fight in Mohenjadaro
Bull fight in Mohenjadaro

This seal shows a vigorous scene of bull-fighting. It portrays a ferocious bull in action, several men or a single man (according to two different interpretations), thrown in the air by it as they try to control it. The bull is shown to be the victor. This seal, made of stone, is on display in the National Museum, New Delhi. It can be dated to 2,000 B.C. [Source: The Hindu]

Till date the Bull baiting is celebrated as a festival and sport in Tamil Nadu. However animal activists, especially PETA India, is fighting hard to ban this sport. They say that these dumb animals should be saved from the cruelty of Bull Baiting. They cite an example where a bull owner put chilli powder in the bulls face to make it more ferocious. These things do happen, and those people should be punished without fail. However those odd cases will not define how the bulls and cows are treated in general.

In India Bulls and cows are worshiped and often treated as a family member, a whole house will mourn a death of a cow or a bull. I remember a Gujarati who brought his cows to sell in our market, and my grand mother purchased a cow from him, and he was so sad to sell his cow, he was asking us to make a promise not to sell the cow to slaughter house at any cost. That is how cows and bulls are treated until few years ago. Jalli Kattu, or the Bull baiting festival is not cruelty against animals, but it is more of a celebration of the power and agility of those bulls.

Bulls in Harappa
A Harrapan Seal – Bulls being fed.

However every year PETA is fighting hard to bring curtains to this long standing tradition. Even those who are noble with their intentions in preventing cruelty against animals are not realizing the fact that it is purely because of this game that these animals are still not extinct. The Kangeyam kalai (this specific species of bull) is endangered and if not for those people who still breed this animal, this species would have been extinct.

If wrestling, rugby and american football are considered as sports then why not consider bull fighting as a sport.

This sport is not violence against bulls, in fact the next day after Jalli Kattu is celebrated as Mattu Pongal ([highlight]where cows and bulls are decorated and worshiped[/highlight]).. Not only in Tamil Nadu, but in our entire country until recent times cows were considered divine and were treated just like a family member. We used to feed them before having our food. Cows and bulls might be a dumb animal for these neo animal activists, but they are a part of the family for the people who own them.

Peta Protests
Peta Protests

If these activists are against cruelty to animals then they must first fight against those who eat beef and those who sell them/export them. They should fight against those who openly claimed ‘slaughtering of cow is a great Islamic act’. They should fight against those who smuggle cows/bulls for their skin. They should fight against those who feed old cows/bulls with fodder mixed with lot of soil just to increase their weight while selling them for meat.

With traditional agriculture on the decline and since bulls are no more used to plough the fields, bulls are used only for two purposes, one as a sperm donor and other for slaughter house. That too the Kangeyam Kalai which is used in these fights will not serve well as a sperm donor, because the female species is one of the lowest milk yielding varieties among cows. That is the reason for the dwindling numbers, and if the sport is banned, the very last bull of its kind will be slaughtered.

I just wish PETA leave this sport alone or fight against it when they have prevented all forms of cruelty meted out against animals.