Animal lovers and activists have been at the forefront of the campaign against jallikattu, which, they argue, amounts to cruelty towards bulls. Their objections stem from practices that are aimed at making the bulls more ferocious during bull-taming events.
Practices such as rubbing chilli powder on the animals' eyes or feeding them with arrack prior to the event are commonly heard of, but proponents of jallikattu say these are no more order of the day, as the event is now being held under stringent conditions and supervision. Several court orders have also underscored the need to prevent practices aimed at provoking the bull. But the idea of a total prohibition of jallikattu remains a dream for animal rights activists, as it remains associated with rural life and has the vocal support of nearly all political parties and caste groups.
“At a time when world over cruel events of this kind are being banned, it is the other way about here in Tamil Nadu,” laments Shiranee Pereira of People for Animals. "We are going back in time, instead of displaying progressive thinking."
In most of these events, the element of cruelty is totally neglected, says Ms. Pereira. In her opinion, the sheer agony that the animal goes through should itself be reason enough for a blanket ban on the sport. The bulls are forced run helter-skelter out of fear. This make them run for cover.
And it is not merely prevention of cruelty that animal welfare activists talk about. The safety of the participants and spectators sport should also be considered, animal welfare activists say. Every year, dozens of people suffer injuries during jallikattu events.
Tamil Nadu is known for its compassion towards all forms of life, says Chinny Krishna, a former Chairman of Blue Cross. A classic example for this, he says, is the story of the king, Manu Needhi Chozhan, who sacrificed his son by riding a chariot over him, after he received a complaint from a cow that her calf had been run over by the prince's chariot.
In Mr. Krishna's opinion, the sport of jallikattu not only inflicts cruelty on the animals, but also led to injuries to participants and, sometimes, their death. “The real number of persons dying in the sport is not reported in the media, as some of those injured in it succumb to injuries at a later date. This goes unnoticed.”
Though the State government has enacted a law to regulate the conduct of jallikattu and imposed stringent conditions, these are not fully implemented during the events, the activists contend.