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January 19, 2017 / subramanyam

Saluting the Spirit of Tamils

I am loving the way people of TamilNadu are defending Jallikattu.  The way they are defending their viewpoint in the debates on the national TV is awesome.   For the first time, I am seeing the anchors search for words.

Coming to Jallikattu,  till a few days ago many people thought that it was bull fight akin to the ones done in Spain.  It was after series of debates and articles many non-Tamils (me included) understood what it is all about.  It is a game where a man needs to cling on to the hump of a bull till it stops running.  The danger is more on the side of the man than the bull.  No bull is harmed or killed in the process.  In fact, most of the bulls are reared by women who belong to the farming community.  They make money if their bulls win.


In many cases women rear the bulls

How does a bull win?

A bull wins if it does not allow the man to stay on its back.  It begins the run; a man tries to catch it at the hump, if it does not let him do it it wins.

How do the bull owners make money if a bull wins?

A bull needs to be very agile to win.  Now once it wins the owner will not receive any monetary award.  Instead, farmers who come to see the game will pay money to the bull

owner so that they can use this bull for their cows.   This way they get good, agile calfs and the indigenous variety of cattle are preserved.  Farmers pay decent amount of money to get good bulls.  Thus, the people who rear these bulls (they too are farmers again) make some money from the stud bulls and have a motivation to rear them.

India had 130+ indigenous cattle breeds at the time of independence.  Now it is down to 30+ breeds.  However,  Tamilnadu has preserved 5 out of 6 indigenous breeds that come from the state.   They credit Jallikattu for that.

Is there widespread cruelty against the animals?

No, no bull deaths have been reported because of Jallika

ttu.  In fact in some areas, people rear bulls like their own children.  There is an emotional bond between the owner and the bull.

However, there are and there will be a few stray incidents (less than 10) where norms would have been flouted.  Sometimes people bring in egos and the tradition takes a hit.  There are videos where animals have been hurt.  However, these cases have been very few.  If the cruelty was indeed wide spread the event in itself would not have survived 4000 years.

Why PETA fighting this?
Now, when we have an event in 1000 villages, and you have 5-10 stray incidents whom would you blame?  The ones who crossed the line or the entire tradition?

We ought to understand the sentiments attached to festivals and traditions.  It is not just pure economics. While researching the topic, I came across people who just wanted their bull to win; they did not care for the money.   He is my child sir; I want him to win.  That’s more than enough for me is what few farmers say.  More than economics its


People love their bulls and consider them as family.

tradition and the love for it.

If PETA really cared for these animals, they would have asked for stricter guidelines and implementation of norms.  Instead, they pushed for a blanket ban which does more harm than good.   Today when a Tamil guy asks as to why only Jallikattu is targeted for violence against animals while the horse races, slaughter houses and mass killing of animals for festivals like Bakrid are not considered violence against animals?  Organizations like PETA limit themselves to rhetoric and speeches in these cases.

I am not saying that they are doing nothing regarding this, they might have protested or something, but when they go after only one section of the population, it is quite natural that one feels that they are biased.

My friend  Shefali Vaidya asked the same question on Twitter a week ago.

Interestingly there was no response from PETA on this.  Then we have these allegations against them.

PETA has a lot of explaining to do, however, that’s for another post.
For now a  big salute to the people of Tamilnadu who have picked up the cudgels for their cause and are fighting it out to save their culture.  Hoping to see the ban lifted soon.

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