My everyday breakfast involves a large bowl of cereal with almost one-and-a-half mugs of milk. Until a few weeks ago, I relished that thought, prided myself even at drinking that milk, or finishing those large boxes of yoghurt and the finest of cheeses. But today, the stupidity that is banning Jallikattu throws its medusa-like spears at us, and we are still comfortably sipping our teas like nothing happened.
Here’s why should look up from your teas and read this article- not for the environment; but for the very fact that even your teas and coffees could be in danger. Through this article, I want to discuss at length the blood-boiling realities through established scientific narration- fixing the complicated jigsaw that is Jallikattu. Through this process, I wish to take sentiments and emotions off the table, and use this piece to simply attempt to highlight the injustice that has found itself an unwelcome visitor. An article that screams to its audience about the cultural aspect alone in a specified topic, often ignores the science behind it. Which is why, I believe that this piece should be discuss the larger economic challenges through science and data, rather than arguing from the point of the culture, which despite being a strong point, often falls on deaf ears.
Jallikattu is one of the oldest sports in the world, celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu in India.The sport is aimed at a battle between the rural youth and the unbridled masculinity of the bull. A small pouch is tied across the bull’s forehead, and the man who extracts it by holding on to the bull’s hump is declared a victor. He in turn, earns the respect of the villagers, while receiving meagre benefits; benefits which hardly outweigh the costs. The bull that puts up a tough fight is known to possess stronger and a superior set of genes, which would deem it perfect for breeding. The bull that loses will move to support regular agricultural activities. The bull that wins is celebrated, and is a pride for the entire village or town. It is let to breed with the fertile cows in the village, thus leading to a strong, healthy offspring with superior genes. This promotes a massive lineage, that is the backbone of the dairy industry.
The bulls that participate in the yearly sport are carefully chosen by the herder, based on a number of criteria. This bull is then taken care of, not just by the herder and his/her family (who spend more than half their day wages on the bull), but also by the entire community. He (the bull) is well-fed and enjoys the attention, as his male prime body readies itself for parenthood. He is rough and rigid as he is close to maturity, which is when the Jallikattu offers him a playing ground to exhibit his physical prowess and his masculinity. His prize as we already know, is to promulgate the strong bovine bloodline.
Before you start thinking like PETA and other animal “welfare” organisations who believe that honour killing among animals is their path to salvation, Jallikattu is not a harmful sport for the animal. It is an entirely different sport than the El Toro bull fight in Spain. Unlike the gruesome fighting that takes place between a charged bull and several participants that usually ends with the bull being stabbed, here in Jallikattu, we embrace the bull- Eru Thazhuvuthal, as it is called in Tamil. PETA and the Animal Welfare Board of India are keen on getting Jallikattu banned for several reasons, which has led to an uproar in Tamil Nadu to protect its indigenous breed of cattle. If its intent was solely to “protect” the bulls as it claims, then I would like to redirect their attention to Gadhimai, the animal slaughter “festival“ in Nepal, killing nearly 300,000 animals, a horrific catastrophe. If you call the harmless Jallikattu cruelty, I dare you to find an appropriate term to describe the monstrosity that is Gadhimai.
India is the largest dairy supplier in the world, being primarily an agrarian economy. Tamil Nadu prides itself on pedigree livestock and cattle, but over the last couple of years (forget decades), a staggering number of a million bulls have been reduced to a few thousands. This protein is a natural resource that is freely available in cattle with a superior set of genes, such as the Kangayam bull. The international dairy industry is under severe threat from the Indian dairy industry for this same reason. A1 and A2 are two types of Beta-casein proteins, the A2 being the healthier form for consumption. The A1 milk (that is most commonly found across Europe) is of a lower quality, often causing digestive problems, but produces a higher quantity of milk, thus yielding the corporate giants supreme profits.
As per the paper published by the International Journal of Science and Nature, it has been found that India has been blessed with A2 rich cattle since the beginning of civilisation. However, competition in the dairy industry among countries is cut-throat, and this dairy lobbying is what has set up the bulls to failure. Multinational corporates and the powerful “few” have eyed the victory and the long-standing sustainability of home-bred Indian cattle. Patents have been registered for the more profitable artificial insemination among cows where one bull and a vial of its semen is sufficient to create a lineage, albeit weak and immune to diseases. This process has raised an ugly and disturbing pool in-breeding among the cattle, threatening to endanger a sizeable portion to foot-and-mouth disease. In-breeding is never good news; it psychologically affects cattle, often to the point of harbouring severe mental disorders. But who cares about a cattle’s emotional and neurological make-up when the business is flourishing with profits?
I’ve known a lot of people who’ve smirked at the fact that we worship our cattle. To us, our livestock are family- we address them by their names, and raise them just like a daughter or a son. We celebrate and thank them for a bountiful harvest and a prosperous new year in the month of Thai that usually begins mid-January. A lot has transitioned from the time my grandmother would phone my parents to share the delightful news that the cow has yielded a healthy offspring. We are now fighting for a rare breed, that is on the verge of extinction because of artificial insemination.
Peaceful protests have been in the wake across the state of Tamil Nadu, including a large congregation of people on the shore of Marina Beach. The world’s second longest beach derived its pride today from the results of pain and protests, where an ordinance has been passed by the State Government of Tamil Nadu, and has received the assent of the President. However, the celebration will be completely fruitful only without the knowledge that the ban will not be brought in again, in a different form. The addressal to that lies in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution of India, that allows for amendments to our fundamental rights.
All said and done, we have tried our best to save Jallikattu, not just for ourselves, but for you and your generations as well.
Boro, Prasanta and others, ‘IJSN VOL7(1)16 1R’, J.S.N, mmxvi, 77 (2016), 1–5 <http://scienceandnature.org/IJSN_Vol7(1)J2016/IJSN-VOL7(1)16-1R.pdf> [accessed 23 January 2017]