Why is PETA India against jallikattu, bull races, and other such events that use animals?

Jallikattu exploits bulls’ natural nervousness as prey animals by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation in which they’re forced to run away from those they perceive as predators.

In Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, Dr Temple Grandin, renowned animal welfare expert and professor of animal science at Colorado State University, and Catherine Johnson write, “The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it’s worse than pain. I always get surprised looks when I say this. If you gave most people a choice between intense pain and intense fear, they’d probably pick fear.”

Bulls used for jallikattu experience both pain and fear. They become so frightened by the mob of men who participate that they slip, fall, run into barriers and traffic, and even jump off cliffs in their desperate attempts to escape – frequently leading to broken bones or death.

As can be seen in PETA India’s documentation, jallikattu participants twist and bite bulls’ tails; stab and jab them with sickles, spears, knives, and sticks; cause them intense pain by yanking their nose ropes; and punch them, jump on them, and drag them to the ground.

PETA India has also documented that during races, bulls run because people hurt them. They’re hit with everything from bare hands to nail-studded sticks, and their tailbones are broken at each joint. This is as painful to the bulls as it would be to us if someone were to break our fingers joint by joint.

In bullfights, the round ends when one of the frightened and injured bulls manages to flee – or is killed.

Since the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017, was passed, at least 43 humans (including 11 tamers), 14 bulls, and one cow have died. The actual number is probably higher since many injuries likely weren’t reported in the news and since bull injuries and deaths may not be reported at all.

Why has PETA India targeted only jallikattu?

PETA India’s motto is that animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way. We work on a huge variety of issues, ranging from vegan advocacy to companion animal sterilisation. Please see PETAIndia.com for more details.

As you will see, we target all forms of cruelty to animals, including bull races and jallikattu, and strive to support animal protection laws. A 7 July 2011 central government notification in The Gazette of India made using bulls as performing animals illegal out of concern for their welfare.

In its 7 May 2014 judgment, the Honourable Supreme Court upheld this ban on the use of bulls for performances. The court also ruled that cruelty is inherent in these events, as bulls are not anatomically suited to racing. It observed that forcing bulls to participate subjects them to unnecessary pain and suffering, so it ruled that such races are not permitted by law, as they violated The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960. This means that causing unnecessary pain and suffering to bulls, which is inherent in jallikattu and bull racing, has been illegal for about 60 years.

Paragraph 77 of the 7 May 2014 Supreme Court judgment says the following:

The AWBI [Animal Welfare Board of India] is right in its stand that Jallikattu, bullock cart race[s] and such events per se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and hence the Notification dated 11-7-2011 issued by [the] Central Government is upheld. Consequently, bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or bullock cart races in the State of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.

Sections 3 and 11(1)(a) of the PCA Act, 1960, make it illegal if any person “beats, kicks, overrides, overdrives, overloads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes, or being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated”. Section 11(1)(m)(ii) of the PCA Act, 1960, makes it illegal if any person “confines or causes to be confined any animal (including tying of an animal as a bait in a tiger or other sanctuary) so as to make it an object or prey for any other animal”.

The Supreme Court clarified, “Fight can be with an animal or a human being.” Its order said, “Section 5 of TNRJ [Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu] Act envisages a fight between a bull and bull tamers, that is, bull tamer has to fight with the bull and tame it. Such fight is prohibited under Section 11(1)(m)(ii) of the PCA Act read with Section 3 of the Act.”

The Supreme Court struck down the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu (TNRJ) Act because it was “inconsistent and in direct collision with Sections 3, 11(1)(a), 11(1)(m)(ii) and 22 of the PCA Act read with Articles 51-A(g) and 51-A (h) of the Constitution and hence repugnant to the PCA Act”.

What about the argument that jallikattu should be allowed because it's part of India's culture or tradition or has religious significance?

Countless Tamilian PETA India supporters are against jallikattu and are saddened by those who justify harming bulls by calling it Tamil “culture”. India’s culture is one of kindness, not cruelty. Article 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution makes it the mandate of every Indian citizen “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures”.

Paragraph 42 of the 7 May 2014 Supreme Court judgment says the following:

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the TNRJ Act refers to ancient culture and tradition and does not state that it has any religious significance. Even the ancient culture and tradition do not support the conduct of Jallikattu or bullock cart race[s], in the form in which they are being conducted at present. Welfare and the well-being of the bull is Tamil culture and tradition, they do not approve of infliction of any pain or suffering on the bulls, on the other hand, Tamil tradition and culture are to worship the bull and the bull is always considered as the vehicle of Lord Shiva. Yeru Thazhuvu, in Tamil tradition, is to embrace bulls and not overpowering the bull, to show human bravery.

The judgment concludes, “Jallikattu or the bullock cart race, as practised now, has never been the tradition or culture of Tamil Nadu.”

Paragraph 43 of that judgment states the following:

The PCA Act, a welfare legislation, in our view, overshadows or overrides the so-called tradition and culture. Jallikattu and bullock cart races, the manner in which they are conducted, have no support of Tamil tradition or culture. Assuming, it has been in vogue for quite some time, in our view, the same should give way to the welfare legislation, like the PCA Act which has been enacted to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals and confer duties and obligations on persons in charge of animals.

In any case, history is simply never a good excuse for continuing abuse, and we have the ability to have independent thought, demonstrate empathy, and apply reason to make autonomous decisions. For example, many people who grew up in meat-eating cultures have chosen to eat vegan after learning how animals suffer in the production of meat, eggs, and dairy foods. We can choose how to live our lives and to celebrate holidays in ways which don’t harm others. We don’t need to have our actions dictated by society or the past, especially if conforming to traditional norms would mean abusing another living, breathing, thinking individual.

Furthermore, Hindus commonly worship bulls in temples honouring Lord Shiva by gently touching the forehead of Nandi’s idol. If some miscreants were to enter Lord Shiva’s temple and desecrate Nandi’s idol, people would not stand for it. Then why support abuse of real-life bulls of Lord Shiva?

Some say if bulls aren't used for jallikattu, they will be sold to slaughter.

In a 12 January 2016 article titled “Explained: In Jallikattu, Questions of Tradition and Cruelty to Animals”, The Indian Express reported that “[n]o tickets are sold for Jallikattu or bullock-cart races”. It further states the following:

Jallikattu events do not offer any major monetary benefits, and prizes are mostly a dhoti, towel, betel leaves, bananas and token cash – that is rarely more than Rs 101 – on a silver plate. Mixer-grinders, refrigerators and furniture have been added to the list of prizes at some events over the last few years.

In reality, this isn’t accurate. A 14 January 2017 article in The Hindu titled “43 Lives Lost to Jallikattu: AWBI” reveals tickets were observed being sold for a jallikattu event, and prizes for jallikattu victories have even included cars and motorcycles.

But if traditionally there’s essentially no monetary benefit to the farmer and no tickets are sold, the farmers aren’t financially worse off with a ban on jallikattu and should have no increased incentive to sell their bulls to slaughter.

The Times of India quoted a resident of Manickampatti near Palamedu in Madurai district as saying, “I have two children, but I love my bull Karuppasamy more. I have caned my children, but not my bull. Usually the jallikattu bulls are pledged to God and we consider them sacred.” If bulls are considered sacred, surely selling them to slaughter shouldn’t even be considered.

Slaughter isn’t the only suffering that the bulls face. There are many different types of cruelty, and they’re all wrong. While they shouldn’t, bulls can end up at a slaughterhouse when they’re injured in training or during jallikattu – which happens often – or when they’re deemed no longer useful. Numerous bulls have also died during jallikattu events themselves.

Some say banning jallikattu will eliminate native breeds of cattle.

Cruelty is not conservation. If anyone suggested “conserving” tigers by injuring them and even killing them, people would call that person insane.

Cattle breeds in India have been changing for many years because of a variety of factors, even during the decades when jallikattu was allowed, so to claim this change is because of banning jallikattu is preposterous. Cattle breeds are largely manipulated by humans to suit their own “needs” – such as increased milk production. And changes in breed don’t mean the extinction of a species. Domesticated cattle are not at risk of being on the endangered species list. Nevertheless, where there is an interest, animal husbandry departments maintain breeds through various scientific means.

It’s said by those who make this “native breed” argument that “stud bulls” are reared by people for jallikattu. The ones who win jallikattu are in greater demand for impregnating cows. However, an end to jallikattu won’t stop bulls from being used for this purpose. It’s said that small farmers can’t afford to keep stud bulls, so each village has a common temple bull who is used for impregnating the cows of the village. However, this can still continue. In addition, a veterinarian would be able to inform villagers which bull is healthy much better than the outcome of a jallikattu event could.

Furthermore, while some bulls are used for jallikattu, others are used as draught animals in transport and farming – a practice which could easily continue without jallikattu.

The community can come up with ways that genuinely honour these bulls and that keep the animals in their lives without the cruelty.

I've heard rumors that PETA India simply wants to promote foreign breeds of cattle. Is that true?

What a complicated, bizarre, inept plan it would be if it were true!

PETA India is an animal rights organisation, and our motto is, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”. We advocate a vegan lifestyle, which means we have no interest in promoting foreign breeds of cattle for meat or dairy production, and in fact, we actively campaign against the meat and dairy industries because of their inherent cruelty.

Why doesn't PETA India ban slaughterhouses?

We wish we could! PETA India doesn’t have that power, and the courts can only uphold existing laws.

PETA India fought a case in the Supreme Court with state governments as respondents alleging that unlawful cruelty is common in the transport and slaughter of animals. The court ordered all states to crack down on unlicensed slaughterhouses as a result and to form law-enforcement committees.

That said, even if laws were enforced, they still permit most animals to be killed. That’s why we encourage the public to help stop the slaughter of animals by going vegan, including by refusing to wear leather. We also provide a free vegetarian/vegan starter kit to help people make the transition to eating vegan. It can be ordered at PETAIndia.com.

Why doesn't PETA India call for a ban on animal sacrifice, such as during Eid al-Adha?

We do. All religions call for compassion, and no religion requires its worshippers to eat meat.

The Indian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001, already state that “[a]nimals [are] not to be slaughtered except in recognised or licensed houses”.

This means that anyone who learns about slaughter that’s to take place outside a licensed slaughterhouse can report it to the police.

Of course, licensed slaughterhouses are cruel, too. Read about the appalling cruelty to animals PETA India found at Deonar in the lead-up to Eid al-Adha and what you can do to help stop it here.

Why doesn't PETA India do anything about bullfighting in Spain?

In India, bullfighting is banned under the same laws and Supreme Court judgment as jallikattu.

PETA India’s main regional focus is South Asia, but there are many groups, including our UK and US affiliates, which are working on bullfighting issues, and we support their efforts.

There are only a few countries throughout the world where this practice still takes place. Bullfighting is banned in many countries.

What do you have to say about PETA US?

PETA India and PETA US are wholly separate entities. PETA India is an Indian group.

We encourage you to learn about the work of PETA US through PETA.org.