Legalizing Jallikattu is Unconstitutional and a Betrayal of Values


(Photo credit: Vinoth Chandar, used under CC BY 2.0)

I was horrified to read Friday that Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests, and Climate Change, had decided to ignore the 2014 ruling of the Honourable Supreme Court of India and “allow” jallikattu—and other pastimes that center on animal abuse—in a bid to secure votes ahead of the upcoming Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. Without going into the whole question of sleazy vote bank politics, which is self-evident in this case, I’d like to talk about how Prakash Javadekar and his party have betrayed the very values that made our culture great to begin with.

This move is especially wicked because it is in direct violation of the Hindu Dharma that the BJP claims to espouse. Bulls are sentient beings, which means they have an ‘aathman’ (in western terms, a soul, but in Hindu Dharma, so much more than a mere soul), and thus they are equal to us. A bull is every bit as capable of feeling anguish, distress and suffering as a human being, and to justify making any sentient being feel thus for the sake of a sport is offensive to the very principles that made Indian Dharma the most evolved Dharma on the planet. In this regard, Prakash Javadekar has betrayed the very Hindu Dharma that he used as a platform to get himself elected in the first place.


Men subduing bull during jallikattu (Photo credit: Manu Manohar, used under CC BY 2.0)

To those claiming that jallikattu isn’t cruel, let me spell it out very simply: bulls are domesticated animals, which means they are used to living with humans. Therefore, there’s no reason for them to act crazy and be subdued in the first place. In order to get them into a state of frenzy so that they run amok and create a “worthy” spectacle, they are poked, prodded, aggravated, and infuriated. Now animals are used to human aggravation, so aggravation on a mighty scale is required to set them off, which, very simply, constitutes cruelty to the bull.

There has been another equally irresponsible lobby of the so-called animal lovers who seek to “protect native Indian breeds from going extinct.” Let me explain a few facts: breeds are man-made, not natural, so they can’t “go extinct”, they can only disappear. You talk of A1 and A2 milk—how about no milk? Human beings are the only species in existence that steals the milk of another animal and considers it natural. The milk of a cow is for her calf alone. No, you don’t need to milk them because they feel pain, you just need to not stab them with oxytocin and they will provide just enough for their calves.

These “animal lovers” are charlatans that want to continue their exploitation of animals, with merely their welfare attended to. Jallikattu bulls are reared as stud bulls for the dairy industry, which is a 100% slaughter industry (if you disagree, please let me know, where all the males that are born in dairy facilities are?). Cows that are meant to live for over 20 years are killed by the time they’re 8 years old, because they’re constantly pregnant. Eventually, they either refuse to allow any animals to mate with them or they develop health issues and “dry up.” All of these cows are sent to slaughter, all the male calves they produced during that time are also sent to slaughter. Heck, even the jallikattu bulls that these “animal lovers” claim to treat as one of their family, are invariably sent to slaughter when they are too old to participate in the sport any longer. By supporting this activity, you support the abuse in the dairy and meat industries directly, and that’s a betrayal of both Hindu Dharma and your so-called love for animals.

Mother cow and calf at Indian gaushala, "shelters" for cows which, in practice, often breed animals as a source of dairy (Photo credit: Kim Bartlett)

Mother cow and calf at Indian gaushala, “shelters” for cows which, in practice, often breed animals as a source of dairy (Photo credit: Kim Bartlett)

Open your eyes! The animals you enslave so easily have feelings, thoughts, and desires exactly like you or I, they are just weaker than we are. We are able to live our lives based on fictional realities (like the one where we convince ourselves that god created animals to serve us. Why? Did god tell you this? Or did you just assume that might is right?), and these fictional realities aid us in our unthinking cruelty to animals.

Finally, it should be remembered that the Supreme Court judgement was never based on the List of Performing Animals, which is what Javadekar has tinkered with in his bid to legalise jallikattu. Javedkar has simply put in an exclusion below the list that sets out the parameters within which, in certain instances such as jallikattu and cart racing, bulls can indeed be used as performing animals. He has also made a feeble attempt at setting out some guidelines that seem to look out for the safety of the participants and spectators but not so much for the bull itself. However, the Constitution of India categorically does not permit cruelty to animals, and it was based on this very constitutional point that the Supreme Court gave its judgement. So it seems likely that this move will not make a difference and is merely so the political parties can all throw up their hands and say, “Hey, we tried!”

To those talking of horseracing, the meat industry, beef, etc., there are numerous organisations that are working on getting those banned too, however, as explained in this piece, the Constitution of India already directly and categorically outlaws jallikattu simply based on what it entails. No animal rights activist supports any of those other ‘industries’ either, and all of us are working equally hard on getting them outlawed too. However, you must not confuse the one legislation we have managed to succeed in with the full extent of our endeavours. The world is headed to becoming a much better place, and it’s not the sort of change that occurs overnight. We take a step forward, like the ban in May 2014,  and we stumble backwards, like we have done today, but we will emerge from the ordeal a whole deal stronger.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Author


  1. I am surprised that animal lovers have not YET raised any voice against killing of animal for meat export. Has any of the so called animal lover, moved to court to ban the animal killing ? & will court be so prompt in giving stay? Meat industries is much more cruel to animals then all these traditional sports , so they should be banned first not the last. Last to last year some animal activist has opposed the killing of animals during Eid, everyone know what fate they met, so animal lovers just take the short cut. Good or bad , cruel or not, These sports are for people to encourage them to be brave by doing something beyond ordinary person reach.
    Now coming to more serious topic , how many of animal lover are non-vegetarians? If you can’t see animal suffering , you should be the first one to become vegetarian. Right? Even more serious way of protecting the animals is to improve , utility of animals commercially.

    • I don’t know where you get the impression that animal activists don’t oppose killing of animals for the meat industry. Combating the meat industry – by exposing abuse in slaughterhouses, advocating vegetarianism and veganism, and lobbying for tighter legal regulations – is one of the top priorities for the animal rights movement worldwide, and while not all self-professed animal activists are vegetarian a great many are, or are at least trying to give up meat. However, legally banning it isn’t practically feasible so long as the majority of people in most countries eat meat and animal agriculture companies remain politically powerful. If meat-eating can ever be outlawed, it won’t be for a very long time, until the majority of people have willingly chosen vegetarianism for themselves. Should activists not try to achieve any other good for animals in the decades or centuries between now and then? With regard to sports like jallikattu, or rodeo in my own country (United States), yes it’s true that the level of cruelty and number of animals harmed is far less than in the meat industry. However, it’s hard to imagine that most people will oppose killing animals for food behind closed doors if they’re okay with tormenting them for fun in public; public forms of animal cruelty are therefore important to combat because they set the floor for what’s considered socially acceptable to do to animals and why.

      All that said, we are at least in agreement that people who claim to care about animals shouldn’t eat them. I know for a fact that Rudra Krishna, the author of this piece, is vegan. Many of the other authors featured on the Animal People Forum are also vegetarian or vegan, including myself, and our organization Animal People specifically endorses vegetarianism.

Leave A Reply