Editor’s note: This is reproduced from Reality Check India’s blog and with his permission.

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Egged on by juvenile animal rights activists, their enthusiasm captured and curated by  vested interests, and finally condemned by an incoherent judgment with strange reasoning. Innocent, magnificent, indigenous  bulls who have been the most pampered beasts in India for the past 1000+ years now have no reason to live. Their raison-d-etre’ has been snatched away. This is a great example of legal activism gone spectacularly awry. This is my 471st post on this blog, and the most difficult one for me to write.

A backgrounder of Jallikattu

For those who have no idea what this event is. Stop right here and read my 2008 blog on it. “On Jallikattu” and some misconceptions in this comment. I had blogged about it again in 2009 following another  SC ban.  Have you read the post? If you’ve read it, all you need to take away for the rest of this article is the following : The bull isnt killed or injured at the end of the event. Set aside the “torment” during the event itself for now. We will get to it after we analyze the judgment.

May 07 2014, a black day for the bulls. Supreme Court bans the sport (Judgment)

A 2 judge panel of the 30 judge  Supreme Court of India on May 7 essentially declared Jallikattu to be illegal. The actual “legalese” isn’t that important but for completeness lets see what that is.

  • For the past few years,  Jallikattu was allowed under the Tamilnadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act 2009 (TNRJ) which prescribed elaborate rules for conduct of the event. This included mandatory presence of veternarians, videographing, requirements for barricades,. involvement of NGOs, permission from the collector, registration of the bulls, etc.
  • The other act set up as a conflict is the PCA (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1982). The operative pieces are Sec 11 (1) (a) which proscribes such catch all things as “kicking, beating, ..” and Sec 11 (1)  (m) which proscribes fighting for entertainment.
  • The judgment essentially says – the PCA when it comes to Jallikattu is of such an absolute nature that no amount of regulation (TNRJ) can possibly assuage it.  Therefore the state legislation, TNRJ, has to be killed and the widest possible reading of PCA must be applied to this particular event.

The most frustrating part of the argument is the incoherence and multiple lines of attack each unable to stand on its own. The two winners are

  • CHARGE: Jallikattu has no cultural or historical significance to Tamils at all (AWBI pp4) BUT LOOK even if you prove otherwise it doesnt matter because PCA is a welfare legislation by parliament and can squish culture and religious traditions of this community.
  • CHARGE: Jallikattu bulls are subjected to great torture and physical  injury BUT LOOK  dont bother proving this to be false. Our objection is now on the basis of “Speciesism” – Bulls cannot be humiliated and mentally tortured in this manner.

So these charges are just distractions. You can spend all your effort demolishing these strawmen, it is of no use to the final outcome.   One of the critical points is the following – the duration of the event. One would expect that a searching scrutiny would necessarily take into account these facts.

  • Whatever you think about the biting, pushing, kicking, punching of the bull. No one contests that the actual event lasts only a few minutes.
  • The pre Jallikattu confinement of the bull could last a couple of hours as each bull takes its turn exiting the opening (Vadivaasal)  The post Jallikattu harassment lasts a few minutes until the owner/trainer is able to lasso the bull and secure it.
  • No one disputes that the rest of the year  364 days, the bulls lead a kings life.
  • Here is the courts response to this. Look at the standard here – it is no longer about physical injury or even temporary mental stress due to fight/flight responses.

Mental Torture Physical abuse is not the only kind of injury that is illegal and hurtful. Mental abuse is also amongst the worst kind of abuse as it leaves a lifelong mark on the mind. It is a known fact that victims of accident, crime or disasters recover from their physical injuries in certain time but mental injuries remain etched for decades, play havoc in day to day life. Animals, irrespective of the fact whether they can express it or not, in this particular case were seen going through the same shock and terror as a person goes into in a hostage situation.

If you unravel the judgment for the most plausible standalone reason for the ban, it is found in PP 59 – It is called “Speciesism” – this elevates animals rights to that of humans.

 Speciesism is also described as the widespread discrimination that is practised by man against the other species, that is a prejudice or attitude of bias towards the interest of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species.  peciesism as a concept used to be compared with Racism and Sexism on the ground that all those refer to discrimination that tend to promote or encourage domination and exploitation of members of one group by another.

In short, species-ism is like racism. Would you allow whites to chase blacks, or upper castes to chase tribals, in this manner for even a few minutes ? It is quite astounding that this extreme standard, is sought to be applied to Jallikattu.  Even if you grant this to be the new judicial standard for animals, this is sought to be subjugated by the “Doctrine of Necessity”. I’ve been researching  on animals rights for a few months now – one of the cornerstones of speciesism is non-slaughter and its main proponents are vegan activists. The only exception for killing an animal under the doctrine of necessity is in self defence. Exactly the same as the doctrine of necessity as applied to humans.  So somewhere there is a misunderstanding of the core concept of species-ism. It is no ones case that taking a bull to Kerala in a packed truck and slitting its throat and eating beef fry  is necessary to live . So if you can work through the arguments, you will find an incoherent position that is at odds with other laws and practices. An anomalous situation has emerged where you have a mixture of standards – extreme cruelty tolerated under the same body of laws that trumpets “species-ism” as the standard for other kinds of activities.

Facts – just for the record

As I have stated above, there is little use debating the facts of PETA and AWBI  because they are strawmen. Even if we demolish the misinformation campaign, which is childs play, we still cant get over the speciesism standard. But for completeness and to help in a review petition – let me address the facts. Cruelty to animals  Man and beast have intricate and diverse relationships especially in India.  There is no one correct way to connect with an animal.  Dont ever, ever, ever, pretend that you even understand to 1% the emotional bond between a Jallikattu bull and its owner.  Dont ever, ever consider your urban westernized boundaries are superior to his rural Hindu Tamil ones.  Dont ever, ever, think that your bond to your dogs Tommy, Julie, or Bobby are more “proper” than his bonds with his bulls Mayandi, Karuppu, or Thalai. Urban, recently westernized Indians,  may never understand what it is to rub your face against the head of a bull, while you can feel its power rippling through its muscles. I certainly dont, but the difference is I acknowledge that the other people do.  Pinching, poking, pulling the tail can appear to be offensive, and yes can cause pain. But that isnt the whole picture now is it? You have to consider the whole life of how the bull, from when it was a cute little bully calf has been treated and prepared for this day.  So what should a court do when two parties have dramatically  divergent views of acceptable conduct. There has to be a way to minimize the subjectivity of the situation.  I suggest that we should use a black box approach for a more logical way to resolve the dispute. Bulls In —->  [[ BLACK BOX  W CHARGES]] —–> Bulls Out You take the sum total of all the charges , twisting, pulling, biting, punching, shouting, putting liquour, smearing lemon, etc and put in in a black box. Then you observe the bulls that come out. If they come out tattered, covered in blood , missing a horn, broken hooves – you have a case to look deeper. In this case, the bulls come out shining ! A fair number of bulls, the most aggressive ones, literally have no hands laid on them. So the logical conclusion of such an empirical analysis is obvious – there is no evidence of physical harm – mental agony is hard to measure in humans, let alone bovines. So you err on the side of freedom and let the event pass. Now lets turn to the facts presented by AWBI. Incidents of biting tail, twisting, poking with stick, irritants. These are used to incite the bull and get it out into the arena. What % of bulls were bitten ? Were bulls bitten as a custom or only when they refused to enter the arena? How deep were the bites ? As a result of the twisting how many bulls had their tails broken? These are critical facts that havent been presented.  They have just documented existence of these practices. Roping, making bulls stand, move sideways, denial of shade.  Once again go back to my points in the last section. Is this the judicial standard ? In slaughter shandies bulls stand in the sun for hours before being selected by an agent. Every single cow and bull is roped in India.  Bovines graze in the sun and rain naturally too. This is just silly. Death and injury to bulls Should be the clincher, yet stunningly  little has been offered here. Two, I repeat just two bulls. out of 500+ participants were said to be injured by falling into a agricultural well.  They have only documented ONE incident of a bull getting killed . But the details reveal that post the event in Alaganallur, the bull ran through the town and collided with a bus. This is in no way connected to the event itself. The point is none of the offenses are integral to the event itself and are therefore open to regulation. We can go further  into the facts – but it is a futile exercise.

Slaughter vs Speciesism – is coherence possible ?

The judgment is incoherent because the speciesism standard will fail spectacularly in almost all other judicial cases involving interactions with animals.  But nowhere is it starker than the issue of slaughter.  The activists  are nowhere to be found when it turns out that post banning of Jallikattu some bulls are loaded onto trucks to the kill floors of Kerala.

This is May 2014 – the next Jallikattu is seven months away. Even if you plead guilty to all of the charges brought forth by the activists and upheld by the court. Here is the truth. If this ban wasnt in force, some of these bulls would have lived a kings life for a full seven months before the “fateful day where they will be pulled and punched it for a few minutes“.  Slaughter is also a game. The outcome is pre-determined. Once a bull gets on that truck to KL there is no escape from the blade.  These activists are squarely responsible for the murder of these animals.

Animal activists in India, probably due to ignorance, young age, or imitation are misguided. They do not recognize the completely different connection between the Hindu and the animal kingdom.  This is not America. We have much to be proud of in the way we treat our animals.  Our livestock may roam the streets, perhaps in squalor in solidarity with their human counterparts, but we do not do feedlots and veal crates. A majority of our cows are still impregnated by sex with real bulls not by a long steel tube like in the west. Our milk procurement still depends on milking by hand, not in giant rotary parlours. No cow or calf or bull, and  I do mean not a single bovine  in the USA will ever be touched by a  human nor know a single moment of human kindness in its entire (but brief) life. Tell me, is this the case with Jallikattu? Every one of these bulls have names – they respond to their owners like your kids do. The owners give them the best food, take them running, give them swimming training, teach them to dig in their heels and work the ground with their horns.  This pop activism has unfortunately taken advantage of a weak  jurisprudence and caused tremendous damage.

Why is slaughter regulated ? Should we not ban it applying the speciesism test?

In the spirit of the judgment, has anyone talked to a bull in one of the trucks that go to the slaughterhouses in Kerala?  There is a giant corpus of photo and video evidence about the most inhuman practice of cattle transport in India. To anyone with a few brain cells, it is obvious that the PCA Slaughter and Transportation Regulation  is completely ignored and is a total failure . We mostly rely on private enforcement – where folks like the Superstar BJP MLA from Hyderabad Mr T Raja Singh and Dawn Williams team in Chennai chase and trap these trucks  under  great personal danger. How come the TN Regulation of Jallikattu is struck down but it is considered to okay the  PCA Slaughter rules ? This is what the judgment has to say :

P 31 : Clause (e) to Section 11(3) permits killing of animals as food for mankind, of course, without inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering, which clause is also incorporated ‘out of necessity’. Experimenting on animals and eating their flesh are stated to be two major forms of speciesism in our society. Over and above, the Legislature, by virtue of Section 28, has favoured killing of animals in a manner required by the religion of any community

There is a feeling that this  talk of speciesism just applies to one type of cultural tradition. Other  communities are simply allowed to tie the four legs of an animal and slit its throat while it twitches to death. This is certainly not the doctrine of necessity. Finally the judgment quotes Ms Temple Grandin – the famous American factory farm slaughterhouse designer.

“The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it is worse than pain. I always get surprised looks when I say this. If you gave most people a choice between intense pain and intense fear, they’d probably pick fear.”

Scroll to the top and look at the picture on the left of buffaloes jam packed enroute to crude slaughter in Kerala  – then look at the bull on the right. Which has fear ? Which has majesty and honour intact ? 

What next ?

A review petition can be filed stating these facts. The PCA Act can be amended to either specifically elevate and exempt Hindu traditions to the same level as minorities or to bring parity by extending the doctrine of necessity to ban all slaughter. Unlike the UPA  the new Modi govt is supposed to be receptive to Hindu interests. We cant blame others anymore.