Jallikattu Debate

Jallikattu Case: What right do you want to protect, Supreme Court asks petitioners


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Jallikattu Row


The Supreme Court has asked activists what they found wrong in Tamil Nadu’s Jallikattu law when it protects animals from “unnecessary pain” and sought to preserve the “culture and traditions” of the people in the State.

What is the news?

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TN Amendment) Act of 2017 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017 has recognised the culture and traditions of the people as a fundamental right.
  • The petitioners, said that a mere activity does not give a fundamental right status because of an assertion.
  • It referred to how practices like Sati, dowry, widow re-marriage, child marriage, etc. were once recognised as fundamental to our culture and stopped through legislation.

What is Jallikattu?

  • It is a bull-taming sport and a disputed traditional event in which a bull such is released into a crowd of people.
  • Multiple human participants attempt to grab the large hump on the bull’s back with both arms and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape.
  • Participants hold the hump for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags on the bull’s horns.
  • It is typically practised in the state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal (harvest) celebrations in January.

Issue with the sport

An investigation by the Animal Welfare Board of India concluded that “Jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals”.

  • Human deaths: The event has caused several human deaths and injuries and there are several instances of fatalities to the bulls.
  • Manhandling of animals: Animal welfare concerns are related to the handling of the bulls before they are released and also during the competitor’s attempts to subdue the bull.
  • Cruelty to animal: Practices, before the bull is released, include prodding the bull with sharp sticks or scythes, extreme bending of the tail which can fracture the vertebrae, and biting of the bull’s tail.
  • Animal intoxication:  There are also reports of the bulls being forced to drink alcohol to disorient them, or chilli peppers being rubbed in their eyes to aggravate the bull.

Arguments in favour

  • Native breed conservation: According to its protagonists, it is not a leisure sport available but a way to promote and preserve the native livestock.
  • Cultural significance: Jallikattu has been known to be practiced during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BCE) and finds mention in Sangam texts.
  • Man-animal relationship: Some believe that the sport also symbolizes a cordial man-animal relationship.



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