When we talk of tigers we mean tigresses and cubs too, but when we talk of bulls or cows or calves, the males and the females are not only thought of differently, but have a separate legal status.
This page is about bulls and bullocks (castrated bulls) made to perform for entertainment.
Dhirio - the Bull Fight of Goa
The Konkani (Goan) word for bull fight is dhirio.
Although illegal since 1997, bulls are specially reared and trained to fight each other, horns filed and
sharpened like lance-tips.
On the morning of a fight, pick-up vans each carrying a contestant bull given an exotic name, are driven through the village election-rally style, with banners fluttering and music blaring. This makes the angry bull angrier.
Bulls’ tempers are further raised before fights by making the animals kneel for as long as possible with the trainers’ hands around the bulls’ testicles. The final cruel squeeze is the last aggravation infuriating the bull into head-butting.
Bull fights are held in village rice-fields. There is no arena, fence or barricade, maybe a few flimsy bamboos to protect VIP spectators. Most bulls run amok, injuring everyone and everything in their way as they run helter-skelter.
Seasoned bulls attack their opponent’s necks. Blood flows, and, if the weakened bull does not scamper away trailing blood, it is usually belly-trampled by its opponent.
Heavy bets are placed so, in the end, it may not be only bulls’ blood shed.
In 1996, Beauty Without Cruelty joined local bodies in their efforts to stop dhirios in Goa and sent appeals to organisations and individuals in India and abroad, requesting that they write to the Prime Minister not to legalise these gory bull fights. In December 1996 a Bombay High Court judgement banned the bull fights and an appeal filed by the Bull Owners’ Association against this judgement was dismissed by the Supreme Court in January 1997 thus declaring dhirios illegal and in contravention of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
Despite the court order, over a decade later, before animal activists could do anything to stop a similar move, politicians began wooing voters with promises of making the clandestine, bloody bull fights legal. Luckily, efforts to legalise dhirios came to nought. The Congress Member of Parliament who had moved an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, to make bullfights legal was asked in December 2009 by no less than the Union Minister of Environment & Forests to withdraw the bill from the Lok Sabha. The Minister rightly stated that it was a tradition that needed to be done away with because it involved cruelty to bulls and encouraged gambling and fighting among humans.
On 11 July 2011, a Notification was issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests adding bulls as the sixth specie that “shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals”. This makes the illegally held dhirios easier to stop.
A copy of the above mentioned Notification can be seen on this website under Legislation, as also the Supreme Court judgement dated 7 May 2014 upholding the Notification.
Bull vs. Bull
Fights between two of the same specie like bulls, buffaloes, cows, rams made to fight 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 made to lock horns.
Bull fights, ceremonial community fishing in the Kamrup district, feasts and bonfires are all a part of the week-long harvest festival Magh Bihu celebrations. In January 2015, in compliance with the Supreme Court order of 2014, the Assam government banned buffalo-fights – also cock-fights and bulbul-fights.
Although banned, 5-6 buffalo fights are allowed by the Himachal Pradesh government at the annual Sair Fair held during September at Arki (Solan), and at fairs at Mashobra (Shimla), Nahan (Sirmour) and Nurpur (Kangra). 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.
Bulls are made to fight each other at Hospat.
Bull fights take place at Shahapur village, Khandwa district.
Despite the all India ban on bulls in performances and fights, a buffalo fight was held on the outskirts of Ujjain a day after Govardhan Puja 2015.
Bull fights are part of the Autumn festival of the state.
At Kila Raipur man vs. bull fights used to take place.
Bulls are made to fight each other during Nagaur and Pushkar fairs.
At Rang Ghar ancient collosseum, northeast of Tolator Ghar in Joysagar area, Sibsagar district, bulls made to fight have become a tourist attraction.
Union Territory of Daman and Diu:
Bull fights are held at Diu.
Let’s hope that all these illegal fights will, due to the Notification mentioned above, end soon.
Even before the Notification banning bulls from performing, animal races such as those involving oxen were 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”. At least one spectator has got killed every year in Maharashtra’s bullock-cart races. 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 one such race. 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 dated 24 August 2011 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 specie 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 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. Nevertheless, 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.
There was tremendous opposition to the Notification and cases filed going up to the Supreme Court. The SC Order dated 15 February 2013 regarding bullock cart races in Maharashtra was 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. The order can be read here.
It is surprising that the Government of India Notification was legally challenged, and initially not upheld by the Courts. However, in the end the Supreme Court judgement of 7 May 2014 turned out to be one of the best. The SC Bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose stated “Jallikattu, Bullock-cart Race and such events per se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of the PCA Act and hence we uphold the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government, consequently, Bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or Bullock-cart Races in the State of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.” One of the 12 declarations and directions that followed was “Parliament, it is expected, will elevate rights of animals to that of constitutional rights, as done by many countries around the world, so as to protect their dignity and honour.” The judgement has been uploaded on the Legislation page of this website.
It is unfortunate that due to political patronage and lax implementation of the law, bullock-cart races continue to be illegally held in different parts of Maharashtra.
Bullock cart racing is the centre of attraction at the annual games or “Rural Olympics” as they are known in Kila Raipur, Punjab. Around Rs 50,000 per month is spent on feeding a single racing bull with almonds, fruits, milk, butter and ghee (canabalism?). The animals are made to practise round the year except during the monsoon. The prize money and prestige (since 2005 Rs 1 lakh is given by the government along with the Chief Minister’s citation for the best bullock-cart racer) of winning races is what the farmers focus on yet call it their hobby!
News reports of 2011 stated that the Kila Raipur Rural Games had failed to obtain from the centre national festival status for the “Rural Olympics”, over and above which, the Department of Tourism, Punjab had asked the event organisers to submit an utilisation certificate for a grant of Rs 12.5 lakhs which they claim was never received!
Following the fresh Notification issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests adding bulls as the sixth specie 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. However, it was challenged in the High Court and surprisingly the Order permitted bullock cart races to take place in July 2012, and as mentioned above, the AWBI was unable to stop the event. Bullock cart racing at Kila Raipur festival 2013 continued to go wrong with riders and bulls getting injured. 2014 was no different when a bullock was critically injured on the first day of the festival – the animal lost direction and hit an electric pole, got a shock and although taken away immediately, it was suspected to have died. In another case, when the rider lost control, a bullock fractured its front leg and was gravely injured.
Implementation of the ban poses a problem for those working for animals although the central law is on our side making bull performances illegal every where in India. Therefore, in October 2011, Beauty Without Cruelty wrote to all Chief Ministers enclosing the Government of India Notification and a copy of the Government of Maharashtra order with its English translation. In some of the letters it was specifically pointed out where and how bulls/bullocks were being used for performances. Thus, other states were urged to also issue orders to stop illegal events involving bulls.
Besides Maharashtra and Punjab, some of the states in which bull/bullock/ox cart racing usually accompanied by betting (both illegal) occurs are:
Andhra Pradesh: races are held at Nelore.
Chhattisgarh: during Pola races are organised.
Gujarat: racing is seen at Baleswar near Surat, Mekan dada shrine at Dhang in Kutch, Drang fair at Bhuj, Tarnetar fair Chotila taluka Surendranagar, and bullock-and-horse cart races at Masitiya village of Jamnagar district.
Karnataka: Giriyapura, Chikamagaluru district hold races.
Kerala: bull/ox race/surfing carnival is held during the Maramadi Mahotsavam festival at Anandapaly, Pathanamthitta district, at Chithali; bull races at Palakkad district, and bullock/cattle race at Kakkoor, Ernakulam district during Kalavayal or annual cattle fair. In January 2015, in blatant violation of the Supreme Court judgement, a cattle race was conducted at Karakkunnu, near Manjeri, for which the Collector had given permission. Another race was held at Muthuvalloor near Kondotty, when the police halted it but promptly left, thus indirectly enabling it to resume. However, in September 2015, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court held that the notification issued by the Centre prohibiting the use of bulls as performing animals was applicable to Kaalapoottu, Kannupoottu and Maramadi competitions held in the state.
Tamil Nadu: the Rekla (bullock-cart) race and Jallikattu have been both objected to in Court.
Uttar Pradesh: racing is seen on the Jhansi highway.
West Bengal: in some villages on Dasami day races are held.
Bulls dragging stones
|Competitions in which pairs of bulls are made to drag stones (solid slabs) weighing up to three and a half tons and to cover previous record-breaking distances – i.e. bull races involving maximum distance in 10 minutes with prize money ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 30,000 – are held on the outskirts of Chilakaluripet and in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. Ironically, this cruel exploitation also takes place under the auspices of the temple of Lord Mahanandeshwaara with its sacred Mahanandi during the Mahashivaratri festival.
These events also get banned under the July 2011 Government of India Notification.
In addition to this, as stated, in Andhra Pradesh bull/bullock cart races take place at Nellore.
Jallikattu - Vaulting the Bull
Jallikattu of Tamil Nadu is a bullfight traditionally held from mid-January (Pongal harvest festival) to April although extended till July. Prize bulls with hooves filed and 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. In fact it is a dangerous bull taming blood sport – the name Jallikattu is derived from salli (coins) and kattu (package) tied to the horns of the bulls as prize money. 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. Both men and bulls suffer but more men than bulls die in this blood sport.
Event needs prior written permission from District Collector
It can be held only between January and May.
Arena should be double-barricaded to avoid injuries to spectators, bystanders.
Strong gallery should be erected for spectators.
Bulls should be tested by Animal Husbandry officials to rule out use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Bull tamers should be enrolled, medically examined and wear identifiable dress.
Rs 2 lakhs deposit with Collector for victims’ benefit in the event of accident.
Entire event should be videographed.
One year prison term or fine up to Rs 10,000 for contravening Act.
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 for Pongal 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 10 persons every year.
Salient features of the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act:
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 was minimised was no victory for the bulls, especially when a legally binding ban existed. The following states how the law had been manipulated:
March 2006: Single judge of Madurai Bench of the High Court bans Jallikattu and bullock-cart race.
March 2007: Division Bench sets aside judgement, suggests regulatory measures.
January 2008: Supreme Court allows event with conditions.
July 2009: Assembly enacts law to regulate Jallikattu.
November 2010: Supreme Court allows Jallikattu for five months from January 15.
March 2011: Fresh guidelines by Court including raising height of barricade.
April 2011: PeTA challenges Jallikattu law in Supreme Court.
July 2011: Ministry of Environment & Forests (Government of India) issues Notification prohibiting use of Bulls as performing animals.January 2012: On writ petition challenging the Notification, Madurai Bench permits Jallikattu in eight places in Madurai, Sivaganga and Tiruchi districts between January 15 and 29.
January 2013: Although petitions were filed in the Supreme Court, Jallikattu did take place 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.
April 2014: In an astonishing development obviously aimed at gaining political mileage just before the Lok Sabha elections, the Ministry of Environment & Forests filed an Affidavit in SC saying that they proposed to exempt Jallikattu from the July 2011 Notification issued by them banning bulls as performing animals. However, the SC in no uncertain terms condemned the government for putting bulls to danger and stated that the court would protect them.
May 2014: The SC 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”. Unfortunately but unavoidably, within days for the order, Jallikattu bull rearers and tamers/veerans began selling off their bulls for slaughter.
2015 Pongal: Although no bull-fights and few cock-fights took place in Tamil Nadu, in Andhra Pradesh at least two Jallikattu events were illegally held, one of which was in Tirupathi. This happened despite a reiterated Supreme Court ruling couple of days earlier on 12 January 2015.
2016 Pongal: The Centre amended the Notification of July 2011 permitting Jallikattu. The Supreme Court granted a stay just in time. By April in places such as Palamedu, Alanganallur, Avaniapuram, Pudukkottai, Tiruchy, Thanjavur and Dindigul where Jallikattu had been traditionally held, people felt that it was a bad omen and were suffering from ill fate with no rain. They therefore held pujas/yagnams to oust evil spirits and also fed eagles. 20 villages of Dindigul area decided to boycott the TN assembly polls in protest against the inability of political parties to obtain permission to conduct Jallikattu.
Erudottam, Manjuvirattu and Jallikattu
Erudottam is an event when bulls are decorated with colourful ribbons etc. and brought to the local temple to participate in a race in which they are made to charge to the accompaniment of beating drums. During 2012 Pongal festivities these bull races illegally held, caused the death of 3 persons and 15 others were injured. This resulted in the Krishnagiri district (Tamil Nadu) immediately banning Erudottam, Manjuvirattu (bull chasing) and Jallikattu.
New Notification Stayed by Supreme Court
2015 ended and 2016 began on unhappy notes for bulls. In December 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.
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. 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 of which one died. 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.
Spanish Bullfighting ends in Catalonia – but the Court overturned the ban…
|If Spain can outlaw their traditional bull fights, why can’t we? Tradition and culture evolve with the times with cruelty being abandoned.
BWC India was one of the parties who had in 2010 supported the WSPA and PROU petition to the president of the Parliament of Catalonia, Spain, to ban bullfighting, which became effective by 1 January 2012. Unfortunately in October 2016 the Constitutional Court of Spain overturned this ban against bull fighting for the “preservation of common cultural heritage”. However, it is unlikely to happen first and foremost because of politicians being against bull fights and secondly since one of the bull rings has been converted into a shopping mall and another has similar plans. The Mayor has assured people that they will do every thing possible to ensure that the ruling has no effect.
Page last updated on 01/02/17