In 1988 BWC persuaded the Government to prohibit the use of hare (protected under wild life laws) for greyhound racing and coursing which is illegal in India. Despite this, the coursing clubs at Phagwara in Punjab organise annual meets when over 100 pairs of greyhounds chase, catch, and tear apart hundreds of live rabbits; others are made to run on muddy tracks in rural areas of the state.
In December 2010, newspaper reports stated that near Jodhpur Romana of Bhatinda, and at other places in Punjab like Moga, greyhound racing events were being regularly organised. The greyhounds that participated were imported and people had begun demanding that the State Government of Punjab should set up racing and betting on the lines of events abroad. BWC immediately wrote letters of protest to the President of India, Prime Minister, Union Ministers of Agriculture and Environment & Forests, Members of Parliament, Chief and Deputy Chief Ministers of Punjab and other officials of the state government. Several points were raised and it was particularly pointed out that training greyhounds involved keeping them hungry enough to chase and kill live animals such as rabbits and cats which they tare apart. Only if they have tasted blood, will they be inclined to run on a race track following a mechanical-lure rabbit. The gambling aspect was also stressed.
In January 2011 BWC-India launched a Petition to Stop Greyhound Racing in India which received an excellent response. Four months later, we asked CAPE-India (based in Punjab) to actively join us in the campaign. On July 19, 2011, CAPE-India handed over the Petition on behalf of 4,269,772 persons (print-out of on-line plus filled forms) to the Chief Minister of Punjab.
Despite such overwhelming support, we were very disappointed to learn via a news item that plans were afoot to set up a dog racing track on the outskirts of Ludhiana. Although time seemed to be running out, we tried our level best by persistently approaching central and state government officials and politicians so that greyhound racing would not be legalised in Punjab.
Meanwhile, BWC–India and CAPE–India kept receiving half-hearted responses from the Government of Punjab who were reluctant to issue clear-cut directions to and from their Animal Husbandry department.
Then in December 2012 as a result of our continuous personal requests to umpteen politicians, bureaucrats and others, who in turn put pressure on the Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), proper support was received, following which a written assurance was given by the Director Animal Husbandry, Punjab, to the AWBI that greyhound racing at the district livestock championships would not be conducted.
Now that Punjab has agreed in writing to halt greyhound racing at the district livestock championships, we hope it is implemented every where in the state as well.
Please see http://www.bwcindia.org/Web/Awareness/Campaigns/FarofftheRighttrack.html for detailed information on BWC’s campaign to get greyhound racing and coursing completely banned.
Animal races such as those involving oxen are illegal in India, yet certain state governments have themselves promoted bullock-cart racing, ox racing events. Not only do the poor bulls that are always over-driven suffer and get injured, but so do humans (drivers, spectators, etc.) involved in the “sport”. The bullock-cart races for the past few years have seen at least one spectator getting killed. But the bigwigs do not care: they stand to earn a lot of political mileage by organising events such as bullock cart racing for the rural poor, e.g. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation organised ones at Pune during Ganesh festival.
In 2005 in response to a request from one of our members, BWC immediately sent a telegram to Vishwasrao Naangare Patil, the then Superintendent of Police, Ahmednagar District of Maharastra which stated: “Urgent appeal: Stop the bullock-cart-horse-cart races to be held at Bara-baabhali on 15 September at any cost. The track is uphill, the animals treated inhumanely, barbarically, in blatant violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Everything is in your hands now. We have heard a lot of praise about you. Please save the animals from this hell.” The response was gratifying. Unfortunately, after the SP got promoted to another area.
Soon after, bullock-cart-cum-horse-cart races, under political patronage re-started although the SPCA of Ahmednagar had already managed to obtain an interim order banning such races. Their original petition of 2004 before the Aurangabad Bench of the Mumbai High Court, for a complete ban, never came up for final hearing.
In fact, the BWC campaign against bullock-cart racing is decades old. In July 2009, we began collecting signatures from sympathetic rural folk. The petition in Marathi addressed to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra states that it violates section 11(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Mumbai Police Act, 1951. Races which take place often are gambling, money-making and publicity stunts that are held in the name of culture and tradition. Severe cruelty is inflicted upon the bulls. They are locked in dark rooms with red ants. They are given steroids and made to drink alcohol. They are whipped and poked in their private parts, and their tails are twisted and even bitten by humans. Not only do the bulls suffer and many die, but human spectators have been killed. The petition was read, understood and signed by over 3,000 persons from different villages of Maharashtra.
Subsequent to the July 2011 Government of India Notification adding bulls to the list of species not allowed to perform, bullock-cart races can not be held or be overlooked if held illegally, in Maharashtra. To begin with the state government issued a Shasan Paripatrak reiterating the ban on bullock-cart racing, etc. followed by orders by Collectors. Also, within two months, the Pune Police booked four major Ganesh mandals (Dagdusheth Halwai, Mandai, Bhau Rangari and Kasba Ganpati) for using bullocks in their immersion processions.
There has however been considerable opposition to the ban on bullock-cart races from the Western Maharashtra Bullock Cart Racing Association and politicians have been urging farmers to revolt. Bullock-cart and even bullock-cart-cum-horse-cart races are planned to be held every few days in some part of rural Maharashtra. BWC and others have therefore been alert in informing the Police in time to stop the events for taking place.
In a counter move the Government of Maharashtra issued a modified order in September 2011 stating that the ban on performances was on bulls and not bullocks. However, it back-fired because either way it did not affect racing: first, the Government of India Notification of July 2011 was species specific, and secondly only bulls, not bullocks were being utilised for cart racing in Maharashtra. Nevertheless, a PIL was filed in the Mumbai High Court and the order dated March 12, 2012 upheld the Government of India Notification regarding Bulls, firmly declaring bullock-cart races in Maharashtra as illegal.
Earlier, a reply received under RTI Act, stated that the word “bulls” in the notification included “oxen, bullocks, cows, calves (male and female) castrated and uncastrated bulls”. Also, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) issued a letter to the Maharashtra State Government clarifying that the term “bulls” was generic and included bullocks and therefore the notification brought bullock cart races under its ambit. A similar letter was sent to the Punjab State Government by the AWBI. The Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana, on February 10, 2012, passed an order not allowing bullock-cart races at Kila Raipur. However, it was challenged in the High Court and surprisingly the Order permitted bullock cart races to take place in July 2012. Unfortunately, the AWBI was unable to stop the event.
There is tremendous opposition to the Notification and cases have been filed going up to the Supreme Court. The SC Order dated 15 February 2013 regarding bullock cart races in Maharashtra is a setback because permission was granted to conduct the races under so-called animal welfare conditions – just like the permission has been periodically given for holding Jallikattu events.
It is surprising that the Government of India Notification was legally challenged, and at the time not upheld by the Courts. However at long last, in May 2014, a Supreme Court judgement finally upheld the Notification of July 2011 “consequently bulls can not be used as performing animals either for the Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country”.
Buffaloes amble peacefully in a leisurely manner and have been an age-old illustration of rural tranquillity. Since they are not anatomically structured to run, it is cruel to force a pair of buffaloes tied to a plough to race through muddy a water track, beat them with sticks, twist their tails and yank their nose ropes so that they run 100 metres in 12 seconds. There are two parallel tracks on which two competing pairs run – the fastest team wins. This is what kambala is at least 50 such events are held annually. Up to 150 pairs participate with over 15,000 spectators present. There was a time when the winner of the buffaloes that won were rewarded with a coconut, now gold medals and trophies are given!
Mainly in Kumbala and Manjeswar of Kasaragod District, Kerala, to herald the agricultural operations, Kanbalam or male-buffalo races in muddy fields are held, i.e. a local agrarian ox/bullock cart race. Such races also take place at the Kaalapoottu festival, Palakkad. The venue for this traditional ‘sport’ is a field filled with water.
The season for buffalo races is between November and March. In Karnataka these rural non-competitive events called Kambala got converted into absolute entertainment with the establishment of the Kambala Samithi which annually organises about 50 annual events in coastal regions. Up to 300 pairs of male-buffaloes are known to participate and spectators place massive bets on winners. An added cruelty is night-racing arranged under floodlights.
The most famous Kambala is the one held at Kadri, Mangalore. It is called Devara (God’s) or Arasu (King’s) Kambala and is associated with the Sri Manjunatha Temple. Kambala is also held as part of the Karavali Utsav that showcases the culture of the coastal region. In 2012 the Karnataka state government gave Rs 1 crore to celebrate Kambala.
On 14 November 2014 the Animal Welfare Board asked Karnataka to ban Kambala and if they didn’t it would be tantamount to contempt of court because the Supreme Court had upheld the Government of India Notification banning exhibition and training of bulls as performing animals. Protest marches were therefore taken out in Udupi and Kasargod Districts. Then in December 2014, as many as 21 FIRs were filed at Karkala, Udupi District, relating to the Kambala held in Baradi village. Twisting the animals’ tails and yanking their nose ropes and violently hitting them was cruel, apart from the event itself violating the Supreme Court ruling forbidding performances by bulls. Soon after an event scheduled to be held in the region, was cancelled by the organisers.
Following Jallikattu being allowed in Tamil Nadu, in January 2017 Karnataka demanded Kambala be legalised. Similarly, the Karnataka Legislative Assembly passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill 2017 exempting kambala and bullock cart racing.
Home-grown “Rural Olympics” at Gomiti Nagar stadium in the Chinhat area of Uttar Pradesh organised with local as well as many participants from other states like Haryana, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu feature ancient, traditional and cultural Indian sports which include bullock cart races and kite-flying. Prizes are not medals and trophies but daily use items such as ghee, cereals and blankets!
In Punjab around Rs 50,000 per month is spent on feeding a single racing bull with almonds, fruits, milk, butter and ghee (canabalism?). Bullock cart racing is the centre of attraction at the annual games or “Rural Olympics” as they are known in Kila Raipur. The animals are made to practise round the year except during the monsoon. The prize money and prestige of winning races is what the farmers focus on yet call it their hobby!
Following the fresh Notification issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests adding bulls as the sixth species that “shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals” it was announced by the Minister himself in July 2011 that bullock cart races would no longer be allowed in rural Punjab. And, in February 2012 they were cancelled. As horse and dog races are also held, the bull owners demanded a similar ban on them. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, a High Court Order (which the AWBI was unable to do any thing about) permitted the bullock cart races to take place in July 2012.
Bulls Dragging Stones
Competitions in which pairs of bulls are made to drag stones weighing up to three and a half tons and to cover previous record-breaking distances are undertaken in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Ironically, this cruel exploitation takes place under the auspices of the temple of Lord Mahanandeshwaara with its sacred Mahanandi during the Mahashivaratri festival.
Camels and others at Pushkar
Races involving other animals such as camels, donkeys, elephants, buffaloes, etc. are sometimes organised as a kind of novelty or attraction at a fair or some other function without showing any consideration whatsoever for the poor animals involved.
The worst of these is possibly the camel races at the annual Pushkar Fair near Ajmer in Rajasthan where as many as a dozen persons sit atop a single bedecked camel made to race other camels. They lope over the sand throwing riders off their backs – the one that carries the most number of people wins. Unfortunately, camels are increasingly kept in the desert solely for sports like such racing and fights or unth laddi (hardly for transportation purposes) since it involves winning cash prizes. Some camels are even trained to give “dance” performances by throwing their legs around awkwardly while sprinting across the ground.
Trading in and competitions for cattle and camels, camel beauty contests (for which their noses are pierced for a ring inserted and fur cut-out patterns), selling of finery, saddles, whips and footwear is all an integral part of this fair. Ironically, the leather as well as bone jewellery sold is of camel origin.
Horse races and “dances” are also held at this fair too. The horses are systematically hit on their legs by a man so jump up and awkwardly move on their hind legs while another man holds the reins tight in an effort to control and guide the horse into so-called dancing, while drummers walk in a circle around them.
Pigeon racing is another so-called “sport” or “hobby” in which specially bred pigeons (similar to the ones we commonly see but with high navigational skills) perform nationally from November to March when about 1200 birds participate.
These are the carrier or homing pigeons which were used for delivering messages during World War II. The Calcutta Racing Pigeons Club is the oldest in India with descendents of the birds left behind by the British, whereas in Chennai the descendents of a pair of pigeons brought in by an American in the 1980s are mostly found in the clubs of the city. As Government of India does not permit the import of these birds, some individuals and organisations such as the Central Madras Homer Club who breed and train pigeons, import eggs of particular bloodlines and hatch them – bypassing the law.
The birds are trained when 3 months old with trial runs beginning with a distance of 2 kilometres and going up to 70 kilometres. This develops their stamina and homing instincts, and those that survive these short distances automatically learn to tackle hazards like predators – mainly hawks. Gradually, the pigeons participate in longer distance races for which they are taken in trains to the starting points and released to fly back to their homes. For example, the distance from Gwalior to Chennai is about 1165 kilometres and experienced pigeons cover it in less than 68 hours. However, some pigeons have lost their way and returned home after as much as a year. . Imagine the trauma…
BWC feels it is cruel to put them through such stress and strain. Knowing fully well that they are likely to go hungry, before they race the pigeons are fed peanuts, almonds and millet. The pigeons are lucky that in India there aren’t enough takers for the “sport” although more people seem to be interested now than they were some years ago.
The intense cruelties attached to horse racing are not always obvious. To begin with, hundreds of race horses have known to suffer from colic and this is one of the main causes of their premature deaths.
The lay person associates the “sport” of horse-racing with the natural prowess of the horse and the skilful control that its rider exercises over it to make it run even faster. He is also aware that there is money involved in the sport in the form of legalised gambling. However, he does not consider the activity as an objectionable exploitation of the animal because there are usually no visibly obvious signs of suffering on the part of the horse. In addition, he is unaware of the preparation the horse has to undergo for racing, of the strain it must experience in having its endurance stretched to the artificial limits of racing (are horses ever seen running at breakneck speeds in nature?), and because he underestimates the lengths man will go to in fulfilling his greed for big money.
Horseracing is big business in which the horse is always the loser. It is thus that most people are unaware that the racehorse is often subjected to gross drug-abuse to prepare it for the exacting demands of the race; that during the race, it’s body’s capacity is often stretched beyond its limit of endurance and it suffers a “breakdown” — its legs shatter under the strain of racing; and that after the “productive life” of a racehorse is over, often with a fractured leg, its life is not thought fit to be allowed to continue for one more day and it is “destroyed” usually by a bullet in the head. If not a bullet in the head, it is “retired”. “Retirement” for most of them means an institute which produces serums and vaccines for which they are bled to death.
In August 2014 the Supreme Court declared “The activities of the appellant Turf Clubs is in the nature of organised and systematic transactions, and further that the said Turf Clubs provide services to members as well as public in lieu of consideration. Therefore the Turf Clubs are a ‘shop’ for the purpose of extending the benefits under the ESI (Employee’s State Insurance) Act.” The Court also noted that horse-racing clubs conduct racing which is an activity of entertainment, and also provide various services to the members and spectators who enjoy racing and betting for a consideration. BWC feels this judgement proves that cruelty and exploitation of animals is a forerunner to exploitation of humans.
For detailed information on Horse Racing please read http://www.bwcindia.org/Web/Awareness/LearnAbout/HorseRacing.html
Since the organisers of annual festival mud race at Kakkoor in Kerala got to know of the Supreme Court judgement banning the use of bulls, in February 2015 they raced horses. The horses were cruelly beaten and kicked into submission. To top it off, the State Minister conferred trophies to the “animal sportsmen”.
Similarly, in early 2015 in Maharashtra’s Sangli district, in place of bulls, horses were substituted and made to race in pairs pulling carts. A couple of bullock carts were surreptitiously included. Weeks later, dog racing was planned at Wategaon, taluka Walwa. BWC sent letters to the Collector and Police of Sangli district and also alerted the Animal Welfare Board of India in the hope that they would also write the officials to stop the race.
In equestrian sports the all round abilities of the horses and riders are tested. However every year the highly contagious equine influenza or some virus or the other affects horses some where in the world as a result of which horse events (shows, competitions, racing, fox hunting, and so on) can not take place.
Drug-abuse not only occurs in horse racing as mentioned above. In February 2012 the winning horse (owned by the Abu Dhabi’s royal family) of the toughest equestrian event, the 160 km endurance race, was tested positive the following day for propoxphene, a painkiller to enhance performance. Five years later the FEI or Fédération Équestre Internationale (International Federation for Equestrian Sports) suspended the Indian veterinarian for intentionally injecting the banned substance and handed a 2 year ban on the rider which was reduced to 18 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Horse Riders’ Clubs are found in various cities. Several show-jumping competitions and other equestrian events are arranged nationally. For example, the horse and rider are required to ride 80 km over varied terrain in the fastest possible time for the “Endurance Rides” organised as a part of the equestrian sports. Guidelines for conduct are laid down but this does not prevent many fine horses from extreme exhaustion which often leads to death or being maimed for life.
The National Equestrian Championship event is annually hosted by the National Defence Academy (NDA) at Khadawasla, Pune.
Digvijay Pratishthan is a horse riding institute with 18 horses, based in Pune. It conducts riding classes, trail riding expeditions, inter-school equestrian competitions and training is given to young riders for national competitions. Also, the Times NIE (Newspaper in Education) in association with schools host fun fairs which include activities like horse riding.
Horses usually belonging to the Police are trained and made to rehearse over and over again for ceremonial purposes on Independence Day.
Polo or Pony Polo
Polo is a fairly unknown “sport” in India. It uses horses but calls them ponies. Although they are trying to stage a come back, Polo Clubs of North India from Delhi to Jodhpur to Jaipur that hold winter matches till the end of March, are no longer what they used to be since few celebrities and corporate houses show as much interest as before in polo tournaments. It’s the foreign tourists that want to patronise it.
Like race horses, Polo ponies are also pushed to perform beyond their endurance limits and for which injections, etc. are administered. Their manes are shaved and their tails are wrapped or braided so that the players’ mallets and reins do not get entangled in them. The stress and strain which starts during training often causes these ponies to die during matches. For example, at Jaipur in 2013 two dropped dead, and in 2014 a pony got a heart attack and died. It is therefore good that under India’s Import Policy, importing horses for Polo was “restricted” with effect from 11 July 2014.
With the aim to promote and preserve the Manipuri pony, after a break of 12 years the Sixth Manipur Polo International Tournament was organised in 2012 at Imphal by the Manipur Horse Riding and Polo Association with businessmen and politicians patronising the game. Teams from England, Germany, France, Thailand and India took part in the event. The association also owns a stud farm having 130 ponies. It is said that polo originated as sagon kangjei in Manipur in 3100 BC. (The Manipuri style of playing is called pana whereas the international style is called polo.) However, it was the British who discovered it from royalty and established the first club at Cachar in 1859; 10 years later the oldest existing Calcutta Polo Club was formed. Manipur used to have 50 polo clubs but by 2012 were down to 14.
Unfortunately, the Governor of Maharashtra when visiting Mahableshwar in 2015 suggested that the polo sport should revived after over 50 years. It meant de-reserving forest land and the Indian Polo Association together with The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation was granted permission to use the ground in March 2016 for an exhibition game. However, the Forest Department made it clear that it would not allow any trees on the fringes to be cut to increase the area of the ground.
Elephant polo is played in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal with Nepal’s “Tiger Tops” resort being the headquarters of the World Elephant Polo Championships. Two persons sit on tall elephants, the one in front being the mahout who is told by the player where he would like the elephant to move. The sticks used are obviously longer than the ones for the horse polo otherwise the rules of the game are much the same.
In 2006, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), Help In Suffering of Jaipur and Elephant Family of UK did not give a thought to the basic exploitation of elephants and went ahead in organising at Jaipur the Cartier sponsored elephant polo event. Although the use of the ankush was forbidden, it drew considerable flak from very many international animal rights and wild life groups. Injuries which had occurred during training (a result of torture, fear, hunger and intimidation) had been covered with finery during the event.
In November 2009 the Government of India directed that all captive elephants should be transferred immediately to Forest Departments. This meant that it would be illegal for elephants to participate in polo matches, more so after October 2010 when the elephant was given national heritage status. Nevertheless, a full-day event which included the Carlsberg Elephant Strong Polo Cup was planned to be held at Jaipur in August 2011. BWC immediately alerted the beer company and informed the Ministry of Environment & Forests of the illegality, subsequent to which an e-mail assurance was received from Carlsberg saying that they had decided to withdraw their support. BWC then approached the Rajasthan state government and the event which was scheduled to go ahead on the 21st without the Carlsberg Elephant Strong Polo Cup, was not allowed.
BWC also wrote to The Royale Indian Rail Tours Ltd pointing out that it was illegal for them to promote exhibition elephant polo matches as part of the Maharajas’ Express Royal Sojourn.
BWC believes this is the end of elephant polo in India. Also, an end to the meaningless tug of war between pachyderms and humans that in addition to elephant polo takes place in Jaipur. The animals involved are put through strict and unnatural training causing stress so that they perform as per the rules laid down by the game.
All seemed well till October 2012 when suddenly it came to light that elephant polo matches had been a part of some parties and wedding functions held under royal settings of the Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Palace, Jodhpur, and that the Jodhpur Polo and Equestrian Society was granting permission and making arrangements for elephants to be brought from Jaipur. A match scheduled to be held for internationally famous British model Naomi Campbell’s bash was however cancelled after animal activists approached the AWBI to raise strong objections on several grounds.
Similarly in March 2013, as the organisers failed to register the elephants with the AWBI, the Rajasthan state government were compelled to cancel its Elephant Festival at the Rambagh polo grounds at Jaipur. It had planned to include items such as elephant polo, elephant race, tug of war between elephants and humans, and elephants playing Holi. The Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, under pressure from animal rights activists and the AWBI, cancelled the animal performances and re-named the event Holi Festival – 2013.
In ancient times making jungle fowl, partridges, quails and cocks fight was the pastime of warriors. Today fights flourish because people make easy money betting on winners. For example, the haat or weekly market in Chhattisgarh is incomplete without the traditional blood sport of cock-fighting.
There is a ‘Fighting-Rooster’ community page on Facebook that has 2800 likes! The page info states “A cock-fight is a blood sport between two roosters (cocks), held in a ring called a cockpit. Even though it’s illegal in India, people still raise, train and cock-fight at festival times. Very famous in Southern India like Tamilnadu, Andhra, etc.” The page is directed to the Indian Rooster blog which contains recent videos and pictures.
The Calcutta Asil Club (asil is a fighter cock in Urdu) founded in 1953, also runs an active website but claims to no longer promote cock-fighting since it is now illegal in India!
True, it is illegal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Act, 1960 as amended in 1982, yet cock-fighting and partridge-fighting are patronised as a “gambling sport” in many parts of rural India and at times in Delhi too. Partridge-fighting is said to take place in Old Delhi on Sunday mornings and nights. Often patronised by politicians, partridge-fights are also held in Hamirpur (and other places in Uttar Pradesh) where kala and safed titar are found in the wild. The birds are brought to the rural arena by bird keepers in baskets who say they regularly feed them oil and dry fruits so they are well prepared to fight. Heavy betting (Rs 15,000/- on a winner) takes place and winners not only get prizes (shields) but since there is a demand for winning birds they are sold off immediately for about Rs 20,000/- each.
Raising roosters or game-cocks to fight each other is not only cruel, but illegal – BWC wonders how state level competitions which dole out huge prize money take place. The cocks are kept in dark rooms, away from sunlight for a week prior to events so that the stress makes them aggressive enough to fight. To raise their stamina they are fed almonds and other nuts daily, but on the day of the fight are kept hungry so that they become still more aggressive.
A razor sharp knife having a three to four inch blade is tied to one foot of each bird-contestant. They are taught to fight and kill their opponents. The duel ends when one bleeds to death due to being lethally wounded by the other bird. By then, the other is gravely injured as well. Such fights are widely organised in coastal Andhra Pradesh and in Dakshina Kannada & Udupi districts of Karnataka. But, in some parts of Tamil Nadu vetrukkaal seval porr (naked heel cock-fights) are held for which the winner is decided after three or four rounds. Blades or no blades, gore, blood and money are seen. The sport is becoming more and more focused on the gambling aspect. Animal activists naturally feel it is a medieval blood sport which should be stopped, but gamblers feel just the opposite.
Cock-fighting or kozhi kettu is an illegally held blood sport at temples in Kasaragod district of Kerala. BWC therefore wrote to the District Collector in 2012 pointing out the illegality and cruelty involved: Women are not allowed to watch the gory spectacle that takes place in a ring called “cockpit”. Here too a sharp blade or knife is attached to one of leg of the cock with which it kicks the other cock. The blood is finally offered to the Theyyam Gods, believed to protect the family however gambling is now very much a part of the ritual. The Kerala Tourism website flagrantly declares “The significance and splendour of cock-fight is best reflected in almost all the folk songs of Malabar. It is one of the major rural attractions of Kasaragod district and has a legendary origin. Earlier these cock-fights were an inseparable and unavoidable part of temple festivals, especially in the northern parts of Kasaragod district. Though it is legally forbidden, cock-fights are conducted secretly in many parts of the district. In olden days a religious tint is attributed to this sport and that is why even now cock-fight is conducted in the precincts of temples. Special breeds of cocks that have great vigour and stamina are groomed for the fight. The fighter bird rises high and tries to kick the enemy bird. Usually one of the birds gets fatally wounded and dies. Sometimes the defeated bird runs off from the arena. The owner of the successful cock is entitled to get the defeated or killed cock. If both cocks are killed in the fight the owners exchange the dead birds. Large scale betting is also prevalent in many parts.” A close follow-up with the Kasaragod District Collector resulted in him forwarding our letter to the Police Chief so we expect positive action.
Under the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Act hundreds of people present (including businessmen) at cock fights held in farmhouses on the outskirts of cities have been arrested. Losing birds are immediately killed, cooked and served to guests at such parties. For example, in 2009 at a farmhouse week-end cock-fighting party in Warje village, near Panvel, the police burst a betting racket by seizing Rs 2.1 lakh, arresting 143 people, and rescuing over 25 live cocks.
On Sankranti (14th January) cock-fights are organised in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh in places like Bhimavaram where heavy betting up to Rs 50 crore takes place. The Kshatriya community men pride themselves for participating in cock-fights and a prized cock could be sold up to Rs 40,000. Unfortunately this illegal activity is carried out under political patronage of the state.
In 2012 for Makar Sankranti cock-fights organised at Alipur village in Aska of Odisha’s Ganjam district were halted when the Police cracked down upon them and nabbed 20 of the 160 persons present. 26 cocks (many with knifes tied to their legs), motor-cycles, cars and cash for betting were seized and a case also registered against them for injuring a constable in retaliation.
Kanker in Chhattisgarh is a small trading outpost where during local fairs cock-fights occur at a property called the Kanker Heritage Palace.
In December 2014 a court in MP fined the owners of two roosters and ordered the birds be auctioned. They had started fighting in court where they were produced along with 12 villagers who had been arrested under the Madhya Pradesh Gambling Act for illegal betting.
During Bhogali/Magh Bihu (the harvest festival of Assam) not only are buffaloes and cocks made to fight but bulbul-fights are also organised for thousands who come to watch. Months earlier about 300 to 500 bulbuls (songbirds), trapped from the forest in bamboo cages, are trained to fight over a banana. A day before the fight, they are given no food, and on the day itself an herbal paste which gets them highly intoxicated. Loud drum beats and cymbals goad the birds (whose legs are tied with string) belonging to two teams, to fight all day. Angrily they peck and pin down opponents. The winner of each duel takes on another winner till the last bird is crowned and given the banana. The first, second and third winners are awarded cash prizes. The bulbuls are said to be all released back into the wild, but will they survive? BWC can not understand why no action has ever been taken under the Wildlife Protection Act against the Hayagriva Madhava temple authorities at Hajo, 24 kms from Guwahati.
Identical Bulbul-fights are organised to celebrate the first day of the month of Magh at the Baruneswar temple in Arei village, 15 kms from Jajpur town in Odisha. BWC wonders if this is the only other place in India where such fights are organised.
For centuries Red-vented bulbuls were kept as pets in India – from Assam to Tamil Nadu – and seen perched on a finger with a thread attached. They may not be openly kept as pets, but they continue to be taught to fight each other and the attack the red feathers of their opponents.
At Midnapore (West Bengal) in 2010 a fighter-cock killed a man – the very man who had trained it to fight other cocks. The cock struck back when he was pushed to fight yet another cock. He had already won four fights by killing his opponents. So when he was forced into the arena yet again, he turned back and attacked the man by jumping upon him, cackling and flapping its wings while the razor blades tied to its feet sliced the man’s jugular vein and he bled to death as no first aid was available.
Fights between two of a Species
Like cocks, buffaloes, bulls, cows, rams (sheep & goats), dogs and camels are made to fight males of their own kind are primitive events during which there are cases of lacerated stomachs and gouged eyes. The frenzy created by the spectators is in itself maddening for the animals. But hundreds of them are attracted to the big money involved when two of a species are illegally made to lock horns.
Kidaai Muttu is a fight between two goats or sheep and is commonly held in villages around Madurai in Tamil Nadu. They are raised on a special diet of wheat, fresh greens, vegetables, eggs and dates. Their practice sessions involve being made to run, swim and bump their heads repeatedly against hard surfaces. Their horns are sharpened and painted too. The winning goat in a competition is the one that hits others but does not get hit himself and is therefore awarded Rs 25,000/-.
Although banned, 5-6 buffalo fights are allowed by the Himachal Pradesh government at the annual Sair Fair held during September at Mashobra and Arki, on the outskirts of Shimla. Rs 35-40,000 is spent on the upkeep and training of each buffalo which is recovered during fights. Ironically the buffaloes are reluctant to fight. Their front legs are therefore tied with thick ropes and pulled by men from the back, while goading them to fight by twisting their tails. It’s cruel and painful. BWC has written to the Chief Minister more than once but these illegal fights continue to be held every year. Let’s hope that such illegal fights will end soon.
Despite the all India ban on bulls in performances and fights, a buffalo fight was held on the outskirts of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh a day after Govardhan Puja 2015.
Jharkhand is known for its traditional buffalo fights which are some times also conducted by tribal organisations, e.g. at Patamda Palashbani in December 2012. After agricultural activities are over, a buffalo fight is annually organised in some of the state’s villages like Shukla. The villagers claim it is a traditional entertainment for them in which the buffalo’s strength and fitness is showcased reflecting on how well the owner has cared for the animal – up to 10 youth work on preparing the animal for the fight by feeding and exercising it.
In Goa there is a ban on bullfights called Dhirio in which specially reared and trained bulls fought and gored each other to death. The ban materialised thanks to a 1996 High Court judgement upheld by the Supreme Court which was obtained by the organisation People for Animals. BWC had created much awareness and obtained support especially from foreign organisations working for animals.
Second time round also when a MP moved an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 to make bullfights legal, BWC had supported upholding the ban. Eventually, in December 2009, the MP was asked by no less than the Union Minister of Environment & Forests to withdraw his bill from the Lok Sabha.
With the Government’s July 2011 Notification prohibiting bulls from being performing animals, Dhirio became history and illegal bull-fights easier to stop. However, in December 2015 again there was a move to legalise Dhirio in Goa. A comprehensive representation was immediately despatched by Beauty Without Cruelty to the Legislative House Committee that had been constituted to go into the details for re-starting it.
In 2012 illegal dog-fights involving betting was an increasing trend in Haryana and spreading to Punjab. Such dogs that ferociously fight each other (some times to death) are called Bully Kutaa and are similar to the vicious pit bulls which were bred specially for fighting and have been banned in many parts of the world due to their killer instincts and actions. The mastiffs are common in Pakistan (like the Kohatie Gul Terr) from where they are smuggled into India via border districts of Haryana and Punjab, particularly Fatehabad and Hisar districts of Haryana. Some might also be bred and sold here. (BWC’s investigations into greyhounds had led to the discovery of pit bulls in Punjab too at Moga, Surewala and Kotkapura.) These “dangerous” dogs are kept by people in farmhouses. Suffering is an integral part of the events – dogs suffer both physically and emotionally, whereas humans suffer due to the bets they place and lose. The Police need to quickly crack down on all such dog-fights at Gurgaon, Fatehabad and other parts of the state, before they get uncontrollable.
Called unth laddi, camels are made to fight each other at the Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan. Not much goading is required to make them fight because a female camel in heat is led in front of them and tethered nearby so they fight for her. It is considered as much a sport as the camel races mentioned above.
As stated above, fights between two of a species are widespread even though Section 11(1)(n) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act forbids it. Umpteen complaints citing cruelty and illegality have over the years been sent to the Government by Beauty Without Cruelty. We therefore hope that after the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court reaffirmed in 2014 that cock-fights were illegal, no more animal and bird fights will take place any where in India. All it now requires is political patronage to be withdrawn and a firm political will to stop the fights.
One of the images associated with India abroad is that of a land of snake-charmers (people who hypnotise snakes and make them sway to music from their flutes) even though they are a dying breed because the law forbids such road-side shows. Nevertheless, snake charmers continue to entertain people in villages of India.
A number of snake-charmers are seen outside hotels like those in Agra which get considerable foreign clientele. Here the snake charmers hail from the village Toola Tiwaria nearby. Come rain or shine, these madaris attract a crowd around them, open their baskets and play the flute making the poor snakes within literally dance to their tunes. Snakes do not have ears and so it is not true that cobras dance to music; they simply sway with the movement of the snake charmer’s flute.
It is claimed that 20,000 snake charmers from the Bedia tribe of West Bengal are languishing in jail for having defied the ban. The community of 50,000 has formed the Bedia Federation of India which fights for their rights and rehabilitation plans. However, the fact is that the snakes’ fangs are removed, they are kept hungry for weeks, boxed up in captivity, and the milk they may be fed is totally inappropriate nourishment. Last but not least, as a safety measure, some charmers stitch the mouths of the snakes they’ve captured from the wild.
In 2010 there was a newspaper report that stated that the Government had put into effect the ban on snakes used by snake charmers hailing from the Sapera Basti village near Badarpur on the outskirts of Delhi, as a result of which they had learnt to play a few new musical instruments like a trumpet, and had formed 40 musical bands consisting of 12-14 members each and they had started playing at weddings and parties.
Tourists are also attracted to snake and mongoose fights. Such roadside shows are visibly cruel and also illegal. The usual scenario is that it takes so long for the wild life and police personnel to arrive on the spot that the fight gets over and the group pack up and leave the area!
Beauty Without Cruelty was the very first organisation to object to a performing bear being sent to France in 1985 for the Festival of India. The horrified French were outraged; finally India having realised its grave mistake, “Munna du Taj” was back after having been kidnapped (“rescued from torture”) and found. (However, the Indian Hotels Co Ltd did not seem to have learnt their lesson: at one of the Taj hotels, Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, elephants saluting with raised trunks and camels and horses on their lawns still welcome guests.)
One still finds a few such “dancing bears” dragged from city to city in the hot sun. Baby bears are brought from cold regions and a cord is passed through a hole made in the skin between their eyes and the snout, emerging lower down through the nostril, their teeth extracted, nails removed — cruel methods of control and training which enable easy handling.
Beauty Without Cruelty and the Captive Animals’ Protection Society (UK) brought out a leaflet on performing animals, focusing on bears made to dance or perform in streets. Thousands of these pictorial leaflets were distributed in New Delhi to tourists mainly at Connaught Place. BWC believes that our appeal was positively responsible in creating an awareness of the intense suffering inflicted upon bears for commonly seen road-side performances. A marked drop in their numbers was observed along the ‘golden triangle’ road route (Delhi-Jaipur-Agra) a couple of years later.
Performing bears (made to dance like film stars, etc.) are however still prevalent in other parts of India like Fatehpur Sikri (Uttar Pradesh), Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu), and Hampi (Madhya Pradesh) and parts of Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Unfortunately the law passed to ban them has not been rigorously implemented for years as the one lakh strong Kalandar community is stiffly resisting the rehabilitation programmes offered but some of them have turned informers and a few former trainers now work at the bear rescue centre in Agra.
Poaching live bears is said to usually happen in forests which have a Naxalite presence. Mother bears are killed for their body parts (gall bladders, bile, skin, hair, etc.) and cubs sold for up to Rs 6,000/- each. The Khanjar tribes of Orissa specialise in this and it has been revealed that some poached sloth bears are also smuggled to Pakistan for bear baiting (with pit-bull terriers) whereas others that cross the India-Nepal boarder could eventually land up as far as Korea.
Forcefully acquiring the animals, keeping them in zoos, or sending them to a sanctuary no doubt causes suffering to both bear and man, but in the long run it does good because the next generation gives up the profession and baby bears are not acquired and trained to dance. Wildlife SOS of Agra has however been successfully rescuing hundreds of dancing bears.
Other roadside Performances like that of the Bandarwalla
Baby monkeys, snatched from their mothers in the wild, teeth extracted and tortured into life-long submission, are also made to perform silly tricks while being tied to a rope, dogs made to jump through rings of fire, parrots in tiny cages made to pick up tarot cards. The training of such animals and birds is undoubtedly very cruel and based on intimidation, hunger and fear. If we want to see an end to such sickening roadside performances we must never stop to watch.
The Alpenliebe sweets’ unique role reversal advertisement created by McCann Erickson, between a madari and monkey is refreshingly delightful and makes people think.
The madari or bandarwalla makes the poor monkey or monkeys he has trained (read tortured into submission) perform tricks, dance, play a drum or tambourine, wear colourful clothes, and even smoke a bidi, for a roadside gathering, at the end of which spectators drop coins in a tin (a form of begging) and the man and his monkeys move on to give more such performances.
Although the Government of India Notification does not allow monkeys to be exhibited or trained as performing animals, they do exist, may be because the government has not seriously implemented a rehabilitation programme for the bandarwallas whose profession is hereditary. They could have as well started with the madaris of Dasna, a village on the outskirts of Delhi, or the Kalandar community living in settlements in Haryana like at Rindakhera village (Sector 25), Hodal town, or at Idgah colony in Sonepat, where following two public protests at Delhi rehabilitation talks fizzled out in 2000.
However, the bandarwallas themselves are cautious because monkeys have been confiscated by the forest authorities, and therefore some of them have themselves given up road performances. A few simply sit with their bandars outside the monkey god Hanuman temples in the hope that people will give some money to them. Some others are now magicians like those from Vijaynagar, another place on the outskirts of Delhi.
There exists a monkey menace in Delhi and people often complain to the Municipal authorities to remove them from their areas. It is then that madaris are called – they simply bring a langur monkey along because the stray monkeys are scared of them and so leave the area.
In Sizhou, Eastern China three angry monkeys turned on their cruel trainer. They could not stand one of them being viciously beaten for not riding a mini bicycle. While one twisted the trainer’s ears, another yanked out his hair and bit his neck, the third snatched up his cane and beat the dazed man senseless. Later the man rightly remarked “They were once wild and these performances don’t always come naturally to them. They may have built up some feelings of hatred towards me.”
Additionally, an international private monkey trainer who claims to rehabilitate monkeys adopted by people with no primate experience, is scared of monkeys bigger than 20 kgs because she was beaten up by an Orangutan while baby sitting it!
While BWC pats the monkeys on their backs and says “well done!” such incidents have once again clearly shown the world how cruel, unnatural and wrong it is to train animals to perform or be kept captive.
As just mentioned advertisements can be good, but can also project a negative image. The IDBI Bank TV and print advertisement showed a baby elephant kicking a ball. The caption said “Not just for the big boys” followed by “IDBI – Banking for All”. Initially BWC felt that Ogilvy & Mather and IDBI had produced this concept unthinkingly. We wrote to the bank, pointing out that elephants should be in the wild, not in circuses or kicking balls, and the only way animals can be taught to perform unnatural acts is via torture, hunger and fear – normally, elephants do not willingly or happily kick balls. We had hoped it would not be long before the IDBI Bank withdrew the offending advertisement, which was far from animal-friendly. However, their reply, pointing out that the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) had approved the advertisement, shocked BWC. Moreover, the Advertising Standards Council of India did not uphold a complaint received by them about the advertisement because of this no-objection certificate (NOC) from the AWBI. On approaching the AWBI for an explanation they replied that “pre-shoot registration was issued on 8th August 2008 and NOC on 22nd September 2008. The “Hathisoccer” ad was shot in South Africa.” They obviously chose to see no animal exploitation or cruelty in training a baby elephant to kick a ball in South Africa. So then BWC couldn’t help but wonder what type of ball game AWBI and IDBI officials were playing. The end result: the advertisement was edited with no elephants kicking balls.
Speaking of which, temple elephants made to play cricket is downright ridiculous too, e.g. at Ponneth Kavu Bhagavathy temple in Kadavanthra, Kerala.
Not only films (advertisement and others) but computer games that exploit or kill animals can have an adverse impact upon children because such entertainment is taken lightly. On screen violence does not make young boys manly or girls tough. The kids simply lose having respect for living beings – animal, then human. It can begin with some thing as unsuspecting as wanting to visit a circus, followed by a desire to hunt wild life – under the guise of entertainment or sport. Crime against animals precedes crime against humans.
Animals are always at a disadvantage in “sporting” encounters between them and humans.
In addition to animal fighting animal, shows of so-called human skill involve men wrestling (dangal) bears as was done at the annual games in Kila Raipur of Punjab.
Weird and horrifying pig-human fights called Ke Nang Huan are a part of the tribal festival at Nicobar Island. A perplexed pig that shoots out of a cage, is chased, grabbed by its ears, controlled, and then axed to death. The cruel man is considered an ace fighter of the island!
And then there is Jallikattu (vaulting the bull) in Tamil Nadu which is nothing short of a bullfight and traditionally held from mid-January (Pongal) to April although extended till July. Prize bulls with horns sharpened for the kill are goaded to fury and let loose on a crowd of bullfighters. It’s not a brave sport as made out, but a barbaric one in which people chase bulls and grab their horns. Though banned under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Act, 1960, Jallikattu draws huge crowds including state politicians. More often than not the event turns violent because the bulls made to drink alcohol/arak and with chilli powder sprinkled in their eyes to make them ferocious, confused by pain and fury, charge into the crowd of onlookers. Apart from one or two persons being gored to death, around a hundred are often injured during a single event.
However, in a populist move the Tamil Nadu government appealed to the Supreme Court to vacate the stay of the Madras High Court order on Jallikattu obtained by the Animal Welfare Board of India and it was permitted during the Pongal harvest festival in January 2008. The state government of Tamil Nadu then enacted the TN Jallikattu Regulation Act, 2009. Guidelines were laid down despite which five persons having died after being gorged by bulls which proves Jallikattu is cruelty to both animals and humans. So in 2009 January, hardly a fortnight after the festival, the Supreme Court banned it by putting a stay on the grounds that the norms had been violated. Since then efforts to revive Jallikattu were on grounds that particular judges had asked the organisers to set aside Rs 2 crores as insurance cover for participants since it was estimated that Jallikattu claimed the lives of at least ten persons every year.
Upon learning that during the period beginning Pongal 2011 up to nearly two months Jallikattu (legal and illegally held events) had resulted in 6 persons being killed and 467 injured, the Supreme Court Justices initially asked “Even after so many steps taken if people are dying, shall we stay Jallikattu?” Unfortunately they did not stay it, but issued additional guidelines to ensure safety of people and bulls.
Appeals were made by BWC to the Government including the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu requesting that Jallikattu be banned even though a court case was pending. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, in July 2011 a fresh Notification was issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests’ adding bulls to the animals already banned from performing. One would imagine that this would have at long last brought an end to Jallikattu…
In January 2012 the Madurai bench heard a petition against Jallikattu being held any where in the state. The case was well represented and solidly in favour of the bulls and the Judge initially pronounced an order staying the TN Government’s decision to hold Jallikattu. But when hell broke out in the court, the Judge said that the only way TN could override the Government of India Notification was if it could show that it had received the President’s assent for the TN Jallikattu Regulation Act, 2009. The Governor’s assent is all they had, yet the end result was that after statements favouring the state government’s desire submitted by the Additional Solicitor General, the Judge simply disregarded the Notification and in its interim order directed that all guidelines issued by the Supreme Court, High Court and the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act, 2009 should be followed.
Monitoring Jallikattu and trying to ensure that cruelty is minimised is no victory for the bulls especially when a legally binding ban exists.
Although petitions were filed in the Supreme Court, Jallikattu did take place a year later in January 2013 at Avaniapuram, Pelamedu and Alanganallur (near Madurai which is the most popular event) with so-called safeguards and was promoted and covered by TV channels. BWC wrote to the Prime Minister to take immediate and appropriate action so that the government was not seen as a weak one that was unable to uphold its own Notification. The response received said the matter was sub judice.
A few days prior to Pongal in January 2016, via an amended Notification (can be read here) issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, the existing ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock-cart races in Maharashtra and other states was lifted (obviously a pre-election sop) in contravention of the May 2014 Supreme Court judgement prohibiting bulls from being used for performances. It was bad enough that the Government had not yet granted legal rights to animals as advised in the judgement, but reintroducing such cruel bull performances was shocking beyond words. Animal activists legally challenged the notification and thank goodness a stay was granted by the Supreme Court on January 12, 2016.
Later in July a bench of two justices Dipak Misra and RF Nariman of the Supreme Court stated “Just because the sport is centuries-old, it can’t be said that it’s legal or permissible under law. Since centuries children below the ages of twelve years were married. Does that mean that child marriage is legal?” They added that if the parties are able to convince the court that its earlier judgement was wrong, it may refer the matter to a larger bench. Despite this, in August as part of the Aadi festival Jallikattu with 200 bulls participating was held in Pudukkottai and the 50 policemen present did not stop the event. 16 November 2016 was the final hearing of the matter to decide on the constitutional validity of Jallikattu when the SC rejected Tamil Nadu’s plea seeking reconsideration of the verdict. In December 2016 the SC had reserved the judgement on a clutch of petitions received. It was therefore expected in January 2017.
Jallikattu projected as Tamil Culture
For 3 long years there was a fast growing movement of youth in support of Jallikattu which was projected as part of Tamil culture and identity along with local breeds of roosters and pigeons. Unfortunately, it was not nipped in the bud or counteracted by a movement in support of the ban on Jallikattu.
Then in January 2017, following some arrests for illegally holding Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, a mass uprising took place on Marina Beach in Chennai. Lakhs of persons converged on the beach and demanded that Jallikattu be allowed immediately because it was a vital part of Tamil culture. It was quite clear that the uprising termed a spontaneous protest without visible leadership was triggered by Jallikattu but was basically for restoring Tamil pride that had taken a beating over the years and that they were fed up with political agendas and impositions.
Although they refused to give up, animal activists did not think the state government with the support of the centre would go against earlier SC rulings and pass an ordinance legalising Jallikattu by treating it as a traditional sport.
On the first day of the event 2 youths were gored to death by raging bulls (210 had been let loose in the arena) and 174 were injured with 32 being hospitalised. Moreover one person died due to dehydration. One wonders if it is worth risking life and limb for a package of coins tied to the bull’s horns? Bull-taming involves cruelty inflicted upon the bull, but it is worse for humans because it can turn gravely injurious and fatal for the man who is unable to tame the bull.
Initially the Centre had requested the SC to delay issuing the judgement, but after the TN Assembly passed the Jallikattu Bill, the Centre moved the SC to withdraw its January 2016 notification which was the basis of the SC case.
Also, a day after challenging TN’s law as a fraud on the Indian Constitution, the Animal Welfare Board of India withdrew its case in the SC.
Two days later the Chief Minister of TN said that anti-national, anti-social and extremist elements had infiltrated the Jallikattu protests. If so, one wonders why these evil forces were not removed immediately instead of giving in and lifting the ban on Jallikattu.