Jallikutta: India’s Running of the Bulls

India’s yearly event of Jallikattu has many social organizations around the world aflutter, claiming that the traditional practices involved puts animals and humans in too much harm.  As a way to garner divine support, residents in these rural areas host a three-day event in order to bring good fortune to the area and its inhabitants.  “If we do not conduct ‘jallikattu’ the village is in danger of being affected by an epidemic,”—a villager of Palamedu (a central location for the ceremony) explains the importance of the ritual.

What is particularly worrisome for many, however, is the specific ritual that takes place on the third and final day.  It is on this day that a number of bulls (sometimes upwards of 1,000 bulls) are let loose into an arena of male youths waiting to take charge of the animals and ride it with little to no effort.  What this entails for the animals, however, is much pain and suffering.  According to John Carmody, founder of one of Ireland’s largest animal welfare organizations, Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN), Jallikattu is “an activity in which terrified bulls are surrounded by hundreds of shouting men, are hit with fists, have their tails twisted and pulled—and some even snapped and broken—and are jumped and wrestled to the ground.”

And the bulls are not the only victims.  Every year, many people (whether participants or bystanders) are trampled and injured in the melee; and for some, the injuries incurred are so severe that they lead to death.  Such was the case of Uchiveeran, a 50-year-old man and victim of this year’s games, who, along with twenty other persons from Boothamangalam in the Madurai district, were injured when bulls lashed into a crowd.  And he was not alone this year: one other has died, while well over 100 more were reported injured from eight other Jallikattu events in the Sivaganga district. 

Currently, there are government restrictions and guidelines set by the Supreme Court in order to ensure the public (and animal’s) safety, however, these rules are not always abided.  “They did this without informing us,” explained a police official present to the games.  “By the time we learnt that the bulls were being let into the ground, things went out of hand.”

It is because of these dangerous margins of error that animal rights groups are most troubled.  Groups like Carmody’s ARAN are urging the Indian Tourism board to take a hardline stance against the events of Jallikattu.  The ARAN has already launched a campaign to boycott the country and its southernmost regions in order to ensure the future safety of the animals.  In a letter to India’s Minister of Tourism, Carmody writes: “India’s reputation for treating animals with the utmost compassion and care is a major draw for almost everyone who is considering visiting your beautiful country,” further explaining that this particular bull taming event does not run in accordance with this sympathetic view towards animals.

In 1960, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in order “to prevent the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and for that purpose to amend the law relating to the prevention of cruelty to animals.”  Jallikutta, however, is a direct contradiction to the mission stated by this legislation.  To help put an end to the violent sport of Jallikutta in India, write to India’s Board of Animal Welfare, and sign the petition here.


Photo Credit: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Bullriding-India-PONGAL_festival-Tamiword25.jpg

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