How ‘Tamil culture and parampara’ treats its cows and cattle – I
by Radha Rajan on 15 Jun 2014 32 Comments

Supreme Court bans Jallikattu: Only an Indian judge in whose every blood-vessel coursed the dharmic responsibility to protect the right to life and dignity of the vulnerable and the voiceless (in this case animals) could have pronounced the order banning jallikattu and other so-called ‘sport’ like rekla and manajvirattu using bulls in Tamil Nadu, and bullock-cart races in Maharashtra.

( order  


When Justice KS Radhakrishnan of the Supreme Court of India delivered the order on 7 May, 2014, he –

1] Covered every nook and cranny of laws, rules and guidelines governing animal rights in India, specifically the landmark Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960) and the guidelines issued by the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court since 2007 in the conduct of jallikattu. Correctly observing that the PCA Act which was a welfare legislation must always be interpreted liberally in favour of the “weak and the infirm”, Justice Radhakrishnan stated bluntly that the Court had the duty to “pierce the veil” and examine if these guidelines served human or animal interests; in the process Justice Radhakrishnan unwittingly but brilliantly juxtaposed “Doctrine of Necessity” with “parens patriae”.


 It is trite law that, in matters of welfare legislation, the provisions of law should be liberally construed in favour of the weak and infirm. Court also should be vigilant to see that benefits conferred by such remedial and welfare legislation are not defeated by subtle devices.


Court has got the duty that, in every case, where ingenuity is expanded to avoid welfare legislations, to get behind the smoke-screen and discover the true state of affairs. Court can go behind the form and see the substance of the devise; for which it has to pierce the veil and examine whether the guidelines or the regulations are framed so as to achieve some other purpose than the welfare of the animals.


Regulations or guidelines, whether statutory or otherwise, if they purport to dilute or defeat the welfare legislation and the constitutional principles, Court should not hesitate to strike them down so as to achieve the ultimate object and purpose of the welfare legislation. Court has also a duty under the doctrine of parens patriae to take care of the rights of animals, since they are unable to take care of themselves as against human beings.


2] Made pertinent reference to the civilisational values of this country and the unique worldview driven by dharma, specifically, the inherent sanctity of all life.


All living creatures have inherent dignity and a right to live peacefully and right to protect their well-being which encompasses protection from beating, kicking, over-driving, over-loading, torture, pain and suffering etc. Human life, we often say, is not like animal existence, a view having anthropocentric bias, forgetting the fact that animals have also got intrinsic worth and value.


As early as 1500-600 BC in Isha-Upanishads, it is professed as follows:


“The universe along with its creatures belongs to the land. No creature is superior to any other. Human beings should not be above nature. Let no one species encroach over the rights and privileges of other species.”


In our view, this is the culture and tradition of the country.


3] Boldly stepped into the realm of sociological theory of ‘species-ism’ and correctly equated it with racism and sexism. At the heart of eco-feminism is the assertion that the common basis for every form of domination, abuse, exploitation and discrimination against humans, animals and all nature is the presumption that the abuser alone, singly or collectively is “subject” while the victims are all “objects” or commodities with no inherent right to agency to make decisions or choices for themselves.   


Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as “the assumption of human superiority over other creatures, leading to the exploitation of animals”. Species-ism is also described as the widespread discrimination that is practised by man against the other species that is a prejudice or attitude of bias towards the interest of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species. Species-ism as a concept used to be compared with Racism and Sexism on the ground that all those refer to discrimination that tend to promote or encourage domination and exploitation of members of one group by another.


Organizers of Jallikattu are depriving the rights guaranteed to the bulls under Section 3 of PCA Act. Sadism and perversity is writ large in the actions of the organizers of Jallikattu and the event is meant not for the well-being of the animal, but for the pleasure and enjoyment of human beings, particularly the organizers and spectators. Organizers of Jallikattu feel that their bulls have only instrumental value to them, forgetting their intrinsic worth.


4] Justice Radhakrishnan with thinly veiled regret also pointed to our inability to rise above “Doctrine of Necessity” which gives Indians legal sanction/exemption to destroy animals as religious sacrifice, to use them for conducting scientific experiments and also destroy them for food. The only caveat in Doctrine of Necessity is that humans should not inflict avoidable pain and suffering when they use and destroy animals.


Reacting angrily and irrationally to the SC ban on jallikattu, a group of Hindus (formerly agriculturists who have now moved to big metropolises to eke a living which, in their own words will make them eligible for marriage), have labelled animal rights activists who fought in the courts for banning jallikattu variously as brahminical, foreign-funded NGOs and people living in “urban economic brothels” who should be “slippered” and “physically roughed up”.


This group proves the eco-feminist position that people who use verbal and physical violence against women are also those most likely to abuse and exploit animals and nature. In a Freudian give-away, supporters of jallikattu in their reckless criticism of animal rights activists who welcomed the Supreme Court ban, extolled bulls and demeaned dogs. For jallikattu supporters and others opposed to the ban, animal rights activists=“street dog lovers”. In Hindu dharma the paramatma cannot be fragmented whimsically to permeate cows but not bulls, buffalo and street dogs.


These frenzied opponents of the ban, unsuccessfully tried to convince people that the ban went against Hindu religious sentiments; but failed to account for the fact that it was not just Hindu temples but also churches and mosques in Tamil Nadu that are organizing jallikattu as part of their festivities. This group also made veiled references to halal killing of animals by a particular community for food and as religious sacrifice (implying that the Supreme Court turned a blind eye to the undeniable cruelty of halal or slitting the throat of the animal which then bleeds to death slowly and horribly) but interfering in what they termed as Hindu religious practice.


The writer rejects the contention that anything done over a period of time gets automatic elevation to the high status as “tradition and culture” and also that by simply propitiating the gods before undertaking some routine action, that action or deed becomes a religious practice.; and points to the fact that keepers of Tamil culture and parampara are deliberately ignoring the fact that Hindus also kill animals as religious sacrifice and kill them for food. Year after year there have been news reports of some Hindu priests slitting the throat of goats during sacrifice and drinking its blood in full public view.


For animal activists all pain, all suffering and all manner of killing in human self-interest is abhorrent. Animal activists correctly hold that there is simply no bad and good method for killing animals. Hindus who legitimise killing animals as legitimate religious practice and Hindus who assert that meat eating is a matter of personal choice and not driven by necessity, are active practitioners of Doctrine of Necessity derived from species-ism.


Such people according to Hindu understanding will be born again and again until in some birth they gain para vidya (ultimate knowledge that all things in creation, the human and non-human, sentient and non-sentient are all manifestations of the one undivided paramatma) when their souls will ready for moksha.   


Experimenting on animals and eating their flesh are stated to be two major forms of species-ism in our society. Over and above, the Legislature, by virtue of Section 28, has favoured killing of animals in a manner required by the religion of any community. Entertainment, exhibition or amusement do not fall under these exempted categories and cannot be claimed as a matter of right under the doctrine of necessity.


5] Makes detailed reference to scientific findings on animal behaviour, specifically the instinctive response of bulls to anxiety, fear and threat to life.


Bulls, as already indicated, according to animal behaviour studies, adopt flight or fight response, when they are frightened or threatened and this instinctual response to a perceived threat is what is being exploited in Jallikattu or Bullock-cart races.


While appreciating the fact that environmental protection has passed through three stages from human self-interest to international equity and finally to the enlightened understanding that all nature (not just environment or bio-diversity) must be protected because nature has her own inherent rights, Justice Radhakrishnan, in a welcome departure from the stated public position of a former CJI who maintained that all domestic laws must approximate to international laws, bemoaned the fact that the United Nations had not moved an inch to protect animal welfare and animal rights.


We may, at the outset, indicate unfortunately, there is no international agreement that ensures the welfare and protection of animals. United Nations, all these years, safeguarded only the rights of human beings, not the rights of other species like animals, ignoring the fact that many of them, including Bulls, are sacrificing their lives to alleviate human suffering, combating diseases and as food for human consumption. International community should hang their head in shame, for not recognizing their rights all these ages, a species which served humanity from the time of Adam and Eve.


Making a radical and path-breaking departure from the routine, mealy-mouthed pronouncements on animal welfare, Justice Radhakrishnan stressed the point that until now the rights that we as a nation bestowed upon animals were merely statutory rights and the time had come for animal rights to be elevated to the status of fundamental rights in the Indian constitution. All animals, all living beings, observed Justice Radhakrishnan, have the right to five freedoms -


(i) Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;

(ii) Freedom from fear and distress;

(iii) Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort;

(iv) Freedom from pain, injury and disease; and

(v) Freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.


These five freedoms, as already indicated, are considered to be the fundamental principles of animal welfare and we can say that these freedoms find a place in Sections 3 and 11 of PCA Act and they are for animals like the rights guaranteed to the citizens of this country under Part III of the Constitution of India. Rights guaranteed to the animals under Sections 3, 11, etc. are only statutory rights. The same have to be elevated to the status of fundamental rights.


For animal activists and dharmic-minded Hindus this brilliant judgment has come not a day too soon. Our courts dragged their feet for ten long years between 2004 when the case first went to the Madras High Court, and later when it was moved to the Supreme Court in 2007 by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) challenging the 2007 order passed by a division bench of the Madras High Court, and on May 7, 2014 when finally the judgment banning jallikattu and bullock-cart races was pronounced by the Apex Court.


For those maintaining that using bulls for sport is Hindu religious obligation, it bears mention that in some parts of Maharashtra, a variant of the bullock-cart race called ghoda-bail sharyat is conducted with one bull and one horse – two different species with utterly different physiques and locomotive attributes but tied to the same yoke! It does not take a genius to understand that this is no different from a cart race with a rabbit and a tortoise; notwithstanding the fact that some breeds of bulls run faster than other bulls, cows and cattle as a species are not designed like the horse to run at breakneck speed.


AWBI, a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests presented to the Supreme Court detailed reports including heartrending photographs and videos of jallikattu in several cities across Tamil Nadu in 2012, 2013, and 2014, pictures and reports which shook the sensitivities and conscience of the Supreme Court so intensely that it was compelled to ban the sport in all its forms across the country.


Justices Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose have covered the ground so painstakingly and thoroughly in their order banning jallikattu that if any individual or state government were to seek revision of this judgment, they will have no legal, moral or ethical ground to stand on. They certainly have no dharmic grounds for appeal. If persons want to exhibit their ‘manhood’, as is being claimed by ill-informed supporters of jallikattu, they will have to choose other ways that does not involve mutilating bulls and jumping on the hapless and traumatised animal, ten ‘manhoods’ and more to one bull.


Organizers of Jallikattu are depriving the rights guaranteed to the bulls under Section 3 of PCA Act. Sadism and perversity is writ large in the actions of the organizers of Jallikattu and the event is meant not for the well-being of the animal, but for the pleasure and enjoyment of human beings, particularly the organizers and spectators. Organizers of Jallikattu (and those killing animals as religious sacrifice and those eating animals needlessly as food, the writer adds) feel that their bulls have only instrumental value to them, forgetting their intrinsic worth.


Just how accurate was the Supreme Court’s indictment of the owners of jallikattu bulls and proponents of this barbaric “sport” that for these men the bulls had no inherent worth and only instrumental value can be gauged from news reports that following the Supreme Court ban on jallikattu, bull owners were selling these proud and beautiful animals to butchers for slaughter.


Incidentally there is no such animal called “jallikattu bull”. These are native breed bulls born routinely to native breed cows. Healthy, well-endowed calves are identified as potential jallikattu bulls, separated from their mothers, nourished with more special food than routine fodder and green grass and brutally trained for the future. The training period is when the cruelty begins – these calves as they mature through adolescence and adulthood, are raised in isolation, kept chained between two poles and their heads made to thrash and flail the ground painfully as they undergo the process of training to view all humans with hostility.


Performing animals (here jallikattu bulls) do not come whistling and dancing into the arena to perform happily for human entertainment. They are terrified, physically and mentally traumatised and fighting a battle for survival. They do not know that humans do not intend to kill them intentionally during jallikattu and other “sport”. They only know they are being tormented by a shouting and screaming assembly of 20-25,000 spectators egging on a bunch of tormentors eager to exhibit their “manhood” and to win prizes given away generously as inducements to other braves for the future.


The same group of internet farmers who abuse animal activists for supporting the ban, also blame the activists for being instrumental in destroying agriculture, for being hand-in-glove with MNCs hell-bent on propagating A1 milk in third world countries, for exterminating native breeds in cows and cattle and in sending jallikattu bulls for slaughter to Kerala! In short they are placing a coconut on a sparrow’s head.


Long before May 7, 2014, when the Supreme Court banned jallikattu, entire families of farmers and agriculturists, like several other communities migrated from their native villages, gave up their native traditional farming practices to live in the same “urban economic brothels” (whatever that may mean) where, according to this group of jallikattu supporters, animal activists live.


And long before May 7, 2014, farmers who stayed back in villages had already given up traditional methods of farming; they gave up their cows, buffalo and cattle, and dung-centric agriculture when they enthusiastically embraced the tractor and chemical fertilisers, and embraced high-yielding varieties and hybrid varieties in seeds instead of their native and indigenous varieties in rice, wheat and other staples.


They gave it all up, five decades before May 7 2014 when in the late 1960s and 1970s decade when they were induced to become revolutionaries in the times of the Green Revolution. Thoughtless and motivated supporters of jallikattu have made the ban on jallikattu and animal activists generally the convenient peg upon which to hang all evils arising from government policies on agriculture, and the meat and hide industry, and as a ploy to efface their own guilt for abandoning their native villages and traditional community-based professions in search of the ‘good life’ in our big cities. These internet farmers hide behind “Tamil culture and parampara” to justify jallikattu.


The time has come to examine how Tamil culture and parampara have dealt with cattle trafficking and how Tamil culture has dealt with cows and bulls in Tamil Nadu’s government controlled temple goshalas.  


(To be concluded…)

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