Only native bulls to be allowed in Jallikattu: Madras HC bars participation of foreign breeds

Chennai: The Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu government to ensure that only native breed bulls take part in the traditional bull-taming sport Jallikattu. The order prohibited the participation of foreign or cross-bred bulls. It also places the requirement of a vet’s certification of participating bulls.

The order by a two-judge bench comprising Justices N. Kirubakaran(Retd) and P.Velmurugan came in response to a writ petition filed by E Seshan, who stated that Jallikattu and similar sports were meant to promote indigenous breeds of bulls, but were witnessing the wrongful participation of foreign and cross breed bulls.

Jalikattu is a bull-taming sport where an athlete is required to cling to or embrace a running bull for a certain time and distance. If the man holds on to the bull, he wins the contest and if the bull managed to dislodge the athlete from itself, it is the animal’s victory. Native breed bulls (boy indicus) are best suited for this sport as they have well-defined and large humps aligned with their front legs.

It was pointed out that when foreign breed or crossbreed bulls are used, they have a huge body and tiny hump, thus making it impossible for the participants to cling onto the hump. Another hazard was that non-native bulls had the tendency to trample and crush players on the field. Also, players only had the option of hanging onto the hump and not the tails or horns.

However, bull owners started using foreign breeds or crossbreed bulls to improve their winning chances and such foreign bulls had won titles in the years 2019 and 2020 at Alanganallur, Madurai.

It must be noted that Jallikattu was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014 stating that it was an act of cruelty against animals. However, via an ordinance in the state assembly and a subsequent law, the sport was permitted since 2017.

In the petition, it was pointed out that the 2017 amendment and law to permit Jallikattu sport in Tamil Nadu was solely aimed at preserving native breeds. It was mentioned that the relaxations to conduct the sport were only specific to native breeds and not foreign ones.

The order copy had photographs of the native bulls and foreign bred or cross-bred ones to indicate the stark difference in hump size and the position.

The court ordered that a certificate issued by the Animal Husbandry department identifying a bull as a native one must be filed while applying to participate in the sport.

A stern warning was issued to doctors against wrongly passing off foreign or hybrid bulls as native ones.

It also urged the government to encourage bull owners and farmers to groom native breeds by offering subsidies or incentives. It was added that measures must be taken to avoid artificial insemination of animals, which would deny the voiceless animals their mating rights. 

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