Report on Violations / Animal Abuse at Jallikattu – The South Indian Festival Of Bull ‘Taming’
Events witnessed on: 15-01-2012 Avaniyapuram, District : Madurai;16-01-2012 Periyasuriyur, District : Trichi; 16-01-2012 Palamedu; District: Madurai;17-01-2012 Allanganalur, District: Madurai
Report Submitted to: The Chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India, Chennai
Report Submitted by Manoj Oswal, Animal Welfare Officer (Hon), AWBI On Jan 25, 2012
While it is not possible to conduct animal sport like Jallikattu without causing trauma and cruelty to animals, it was anticipated that the guidelines and rules would ensure that the cruelty is minimum.
The events at the surface looked very organized and orderly but scratching a little below the surface showed that the abuse and violations now have been hidden away from the main arena. The unruly people have been found their own place away from media glare and eyes of Animal Welfare Officers.
The fundamental issue remains that a large section of people come to the events with a hope/expectation that they are also a part of the action, which indeed has been a way of Jallikattu all till a few years ago. Such people continue to handle bulls in crude fashion, continue to risk their own lives and create hazard for themselves and others and they undo whatever the system has built as check and balance.
Queuing of bulls
The most stressful time for the animals is the long wait. Particularly when events are back to back. The same animals participate in many events and travel to new events everyday. No animal has the possibility of basic shelter from sun and wind, food or water while it awaits its turn.
The situation in all districts remain the same as it was last year. Between 200 to 400 bulls come to the venue but the facility of pens and shelter are symbolic, holding at the most 10-12 animals. These poster boys are shown as how well bulls were treated. However in reality they are not even a fraction of the bulls that participate.
The bull are held tightly by their ropes. There is no possibility to move even an inch. The bull that can not even lower hold itself to its natural position, it is held up tightly that is how it remains in that single position for hour at a strech. If the bull stands naturally the holder will have bend himself in an awkward position.
In such a position there is no possibility of either feeding or watering the animal. The bull start queuing from 7 am and they are held that way till 4pm till then the program usually ends. The bull coming first may get released about 2 hours earlier.
Cruelty before release
The bull does not want to go into the arena. It does not like people and does not like the crowd. The only way to get it go before the crowd is to prod it and threaten it. Cause the animal so much pain and fear that it believes that going before the thousands of people is a better escape than being tortured here in the small box like enclosure.
The methods of torture vary, but the essence remains the same. The bull has to run for its life. The bull is scared of both scenarios the large crowd outside and the captive and painful life with the current owner. Given an opportunity the bull prefers to stay in the small enclosure then run into a crowd of strangers, the way the bull is made to run is to give it immediate pain or restrain it unnaturally.
Despite ban, people were seen giving alcohol to the animal in the sly. The tail of the animal is one of the sensitive part of the body, so is the nose and the eyes. Torture to these parts is one quick way to get the bull run.
With an exception to Periyasiriyur, nowhere were the animals tested for alcohol using any known methods. The doctors in other places claimed to be smelling the mouth of the animals, which by no way appears to be any scientific test. Also no blood or urine samples were collected though there were mobile lab vans.
Alcohol testing happened only in Periyasuriyur. The owners were however making them gulp liquor after the test.
In Periyasuriyur registered and unregistered animals were not distinguishable as the mandatory golden yellow marking was not being done. So it was not possible for this observer to confirm if all bulls were registered with AWBI. Also after a while, the vet team left the booth empty.
Cruelty within the arena
Physical abuse is not the only kind of injury that is illegal and hurtful. Mental abuse is also amongst the worst kind of abuse as it leaves a lifelong mark on the mind.
It is a known fact that victims of accident, crime or disasters recover from their physical injuries in certain time but mental injuries remain etched for decades, play havoc in day to day life. Animals, irrespective of the fact whether they can express it or not, in this particular case were seen going through the same shock and terror as a person goes into in a hostage situation. Constant fear of death and continuous torture.
With the entire world watching at the events, it was not expected that the animals will be harassed in the arena. The animals got a respite from physical abuse in the arena that was well covered by media, however as soon as they left the main arena, the tale of torture remained the same what it has been for long.
Bull arena’s are a symbolic arrangement
The Hon’ble Supreme Court had in an interim order directed that the arena be enclosed from all 4 sides and the bulls be kept in a yard until the end of the event. This step was followed only by symbolically designating a bull yard. Rather, the intention to follow this rule did not appear to be sincere for reasons below…
Arena in Ananiyapuram : The yard was a school building with a small open area. The Main arena was diverted to this bull yard via temporary barricades. The bull yard itself had place for only 10 bulls maximum. The actual number of bulls expected to participate were 200, so there is no way the bulls could have been accommodated there had the rule being adhered to. As expected the barricades were opened up to let the bulls loose on the main street and most bull did not go to the bull yard but were found everywhere else.
Space for less than 20 bulls when 200 were anticipated, showed complete lack on sincerity in following the rule.
More than 30 motorcycles were parked in the bull yard. The bulls inside were on a rampage. This observer and the policemen protecting the observer, both had several narrow escapes despite that only 10% of bulls accidentally entered the arena.
The yellow barricades were opened up for no known reason, keeping the barricades would have led the bulls to the bull yard. But for unknown reason the yellow barricade were opened up leading bull to the streets into the crowd. Only 20 odd bulls entered the yards, that too by chance and not by design.
Arena in Periyasuriyur : The bull yard was a large area full of shrubs and wild vegetation growth. The bulls were running helter shelter in the growth hurting themselves with thorns and barbs. There was no shade water or food for them. All kinds of people had open access to torture and catch the bulls. The area was not enclosed as per the directions.
Barricades were lying unused, the bulls were led into a wasteland full of thorny bushes and vegetation growth. Bulls and public were playing ‘hide and seek’ in the area. By any standards it would be illogical to term this as a bull yard.
Arena in Palamedu: The bulls were all diverted into a partly dry canal. This area again was a “free for all” area all people in the crowd were involved in the mayhem. The bull were so terrified that they were literally jumping into the dry canal for a substantial height of eight feet. Many bulls actually fell into the canal as they did not even notice the canal. This is very unnatural for the bulls to do. This place again had no food water or shade for the animals.
The bull yard where bulls were to be collected had free access area for people a well. This led to a fee for all for people and bulls both. The barricades were destroyed in no time.
Arena in Allanganallur : The bulls were all lead into a coconut groove. The area again was a game area for all kinds of people to ‘catch’ the bulls. This again led to the same situation where unqualified and untrained people were handling bulls leading to injuries.
The coconut grove that was designated as bull yard was full of people of all kinds who were running behind the bulls. The area was so unsafe that NO ONE including this observer or the photographer could conduct their observation without the fear or being trampled upon.
As per the orders the bulls were to be retained in this area till the end of the event and bulls be provided water and fodder there. There was no scope to do so as the design of the yards itself was such that it was free-for-all area in four cases and inadequately small in case of Ananiyapuram. In one case the bull yard’s existence hand no meaning as no bull seemed to have gone in there.
Unauthorized handling by ‘Non Participants’
At Ananyapuram it seemed that a large section of spectators had come to handle the bulls themselves. They had least interest in the ‘champions’ in the arena, they considered themselves as much as a matador, irrespective of what the rules said.
The entire set of checks and balances put together by the administration, legislation and the orders of the Hon’ble Courts did not deter these people from putting their and others lives at risk.
The sticks and protruding objects banned in arena were all legitimate in the parallel jallikattus happening on the streets. The protectors of people, the police themselves were also vulnerable and defenseless. The innocent pedestrians and even people sitting in their homes were not safe as bulls had free run in the town.
There were not just human to bull fights but the parallel jallikattus also had bull fights in their entertainment package. Huge audience was a spectator to this as the handlers instigated the fights.
Unauthorized Parallel Jallikattus.
Unregistered bulls and unregistered participants, all take part in this unregulated mayhem. Bulls run blindly through a maze of police cars, private vehicles ambulances trucks and even fire engines. The photographer had to climb up a temporary shed and was minutes away from being trampled
In Sira Vayal after some time the crowd felt that the registered participant were not entertaining enough and they themselves were no less talented, o everyone their his hand at bull taming. The rules and orders first became the casualty… then some participants and animals became the casualty
The tired bull was ‘resting’ in the yard had no water, no fodder. However the exhausted animals peaceful existence did not cut much into the satisfaction of onlookers who wanted to ‘see the bull in action’ and so untrained people pulled every ‘string’ (or tails and ropes) to do the cameo outside the arena too.
The bulls could just not get up after the incessant run in the village. This however was not to the liking of onlookers. It was clear that the bull wanted to rest but the spectators aren’t happy to see the animal take refuge
There is no doubt that the entire event is now well managed and controlled in the arena. A significant discipline has been added to the anarchy the game represented. However this observer does not have reasons to believe that much has changed outside the arena.
There may be a section of populace and administration that wants everyone to believe that there is no longer any cruelty involved in Jallikattu. This observer however feels that the beauty here is not even skin deep, it is just a little makeup and beautification that shows everything in order to the outside world.
It is not easy to compartmentalize the problems, they are interlinked and at times the lines are too blurred.
The Arena :
In the Arena, the entire game is devoid of much action. The bull, if seen in videos, shows no interest in either the people or the game, the moment it is released it takes it heels and tries to escape people. In most cases it is able to. In some cases if it is actually caught, it avoids the catchers and runs to what it thinks is safety. In about 10% situation the bulls actually have any interface with human beings. There too they get caught by the hump or horns and run away. In some rare instances the bull gets incited enough to attack or fight back, not more than 2% of cases it does happen, that too when too many people attack at the same time.
A bull’s mind is comparable to a four year old child. The animal is held in an unnatural position in hot sun without food and water for hours making very anxious and confused. Then it goes through a passage where the torture starts, this peaks in the enclosure which has no public view. There the bull is confronted with a Hobson’s choice, bear the torture in the arena or run into a large crowd of loud noise making strangers all ready to catch it an attack it. The mental situation of this animals is similar to a four year old child in a hostage / hijack scenario. It is of no real relief to animal that now nobody whacks the animal with whips or sticks in the open. The horror of the scenario is more painful than the few lashings of whips. And in any case, the uncontrolled physical abuse is the same once it has left the arena an gone into the so-called yards or run into the streets to escape the torture in the yards.
Outside the Arena:
What has changed.
- Registered bulls marked in five out of six venues ( Not so in Previyasuriyal)
- Symbolic testing done for alcohol (actual testing done in Previyasuriyal, rest of the places the test was just a cover up)
- Obvious and visible forms of cruelty disallowed in public view.
- The double barricades were less porous and so it was not easy for unruly people to enter arena. (not so in Siravayal)
Everything else, the issues highlighted in the report in 2011 remain active
- Queuing of animals and holding them in unnatural position for hours without food and water.
- In the secluded and enclosed area, all forms of animal abuse continue and are grossly prevalent. Tail biting, nose grabbing, eyes piercing, rope pulling and brutal constriction and straining were all being done with impunity, as this area is not in public view.
- The animals are invariably not going into the yard but onto the streets, groves, cluttered vegetation, dry canals and other free-for-all areas, all misnamed as yards.
- Animals running out the yard to escape brutality straying into the streets of the village.
- Jallikattu barricades punctured at certain points or that they being open at one end leading to non participants indulging in the same kind of cruelty that were seen last year.
- A complete parallel set of jallikattus happening within the crowd as people release the unregistered bulls into the crowd, this is more particular and obvious in Sivagangai.
- A less obvious but with same effect, parallel Jallikattu happening in areas designated as bull yards. So instead of rest, the bull yards are the areas where the bulls get tortured the most.
If conducting the event in the fashion described above is being disguised as not being in violation of the PCA Act, this observer regretfully can not agree with it.
If this is not “unnecessary pain and cruelty” it is hard to understand what is pain and cruelty. If this is not “beats, kicks, over- rides, over- drives, over- loads, tortures” as defined in 11(1)A of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 then this observer surely is keen on knowing what those terms mean.