Target: Dr. R.M. Kharb AVSM, Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India
Goal: Prevent the cruelty to bulls, and injury to humans, by banning the horrific event which pits the animal against a crowd of men.
The popular event of Pongal takes place every year in many villages in the southern districts of India. As a way to test the male youth of the communities, the three day event culminates in an arena in which bulls are set loose to mingle with a large crowd of waiting men. Held in order to secure good fortune for the region and as a way to carry on the tradition of the Tamil culture, ‘Jallikattu’ conjures varying responses from a variety of social organizations.
Specifically, Jallikattu is an area of concern for many animal rights groups worried about the welfare of some 1,000 bulls used during the event each year. As with other bull taming events (namely, Spain’s famous running of the bulls), the day is littered with injury, both to the animals and to the people who are involved. Thousands of spectators gather to watch the bulls being released, usually one at a time, into a crowd of men waiting to grab a hold of the animals’ humps and ride it without effort. The bull struggles with the crowd, and many men are left injured—and often times dead. Uchiveeran, a 50-year-old man living near the Madurai district of India, died late last month due to injuries procured from this year’s events.
While Jallikattu is largely restricted in order to ensure the public’s safety, often times these rules are looked over and people end up hurt. As a police official at the event described, “They [the villagers] did this without informing us. By the time we learnt that the bulls were being let into the ground, things went out of hand.”
It is within this margin of error, that many find discomfort. One of Ireland’s leading animal rights groups, Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN), has found fault with the event and has launched a campaign in order to draw attention to the damaging effects Jallikattu has on both the animals and the people who are involved. The group’s founder, John Carmody, sheds light on what he finds is an important matter. In a letter to the Indian Minister of Tourism, Carmody wrote: “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. How can that image endure when a state government endorses 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 on and wrestled to the ground?”
Dear Dr. Kharb,
When India’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was put into place in 1960, the goal of the legislation was to promote “animal welfare generally for the purpose of protecting animals from being subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering.” Now, the Act has hit a standstill in the form of the bull taming event commonly referred to as Jallikutta.
The event, which is largely popular in districts in the south of the country, pits animals against humans, and none are immune to harm. It is no wonder that animal rights groups and activists are concerned for the welfare of both the animals and the humans that are involved.
In direct opposition to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Jallikuta allows for the infliction of pain and suffering to not only the bulls, but to the thousands of humans that put themselves in harm’s way. I urge you, as the Chairman of India’s Animal Welfare Board, to further restrict and completely ban Jallikutta, and keep all parties safe.
[Your name will go here]