Jallikattu Debate

SC backs TN position on Jallikattu


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Jallikattu Debate


Central Idea

  • The Supreme Court Constitution Bench has upheld the amendments made by Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
  • The decision overturns a previous verdict that banned practices such as Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming sport.

Overturning the previous verdict

  • The court rejected the 2014 verdict of the Welfare Board of India v. A. Nagaraja case that deemed Jallikattu incompatible with animal rights.
  • The Constitution Bench emphasized that Jallikattu has been a part of Tamil Nadu’s cultural heritage for at least a century.

Significance of Pongal and Jallikattu

  • Pongal is a harvest festival in Tamil Nadu, celebrated with thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest and rituals honoring cattle.
  • Jallikattu, a bull-taming event, is an integral part of the festival and showcases the strength and skill of farm hands in southern Tamil Nadu.

Supreme Court’s 2014 verdict and animal rights perspective

  • The previous two-judge Bench ruling emphasized the importance of animal rights and suggested elevating them to the level of constitutional rights.
  • Animal welfare organizations presented evidence of physical and mental torture inflicted on the animals during Jallikattu.

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.
  • Agrarian pride: It represents a cultural infirmity to urban modernity that marginalizes rural and agrarian values.


  • Tradition and culture should be considered in the rights discourse, recognizing the cultural context of practices like Jallikattu.
  • Engagement and negotiation between animal rights advocates and local culture and tradition are necessary for a balanced approach.



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