While animal rights activists are vociferously fighting for a blanket ban on ‘Jallikattu’ citing violence and cruelty animals are subjected to, another group of activists have been voicing their support for the sport from the point of view of biodiversity conservation and preservation of traditional culture.

Members of breeding societies said that there were six cattle breeds in Tamil Nadu. While their numbers had rapidly decreased from 2,000, one breed had become extinct. Stating that convention of biological diversity supported traditional practices to conserve traditional breeds, they said seeking a blanket ban on the sport was not justified.

“We look after the bulls well and do not indulge in any malpractice during ‘Jallikattu’. It is only because of a few people who indulge in malpractice and ill-treat their bulls that we are accused of subjecting animals to cruelty,” a member of a breeder society said.

“Events such as ‘Jallikattu’ and ‘Rekla race’ are called ‘bio-cultural activities’. Such activities have ensured that a few important breeds of cattle are still being reared,” explained Karthikeya Sivasenapathy, managing trustee of Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation, an organisation which works for the protection of the Kangayam breed of cattle. Commenting on the role of animal welfare activists and organisations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) which have sought to ban the event, Sundar Ganesan, an activist said that organisations need to understand the cultural implications of the sport.

“There have been numerous references to the sport in literature and one has to examine the continuity of a sport in a geographical location. While there have been instances of malpractice, better enforcement of regulations are what we need,” he said.

A group of activists, NGOs and breeding societies which work with cattle congregated in the city earlier this week to discuss issues regarding the sport and how they could keep it going with regulations in place.

“A bio-cultural protocol is what we are trying to implement with the village panchayats and State authorities. While this will sensitise the fringe elements who indulge in cruelty towards the bulls, there will also be an emphasis on the conservation of species,” concludes Mr.Sivasenapathy.