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Court bans bullfights, bullock-cart contests…
- Animal dignity upheld, reservoir rule in TN favour

New Delhi, May 7: The Supreme Court today banned the traditional bull-taming sport jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and all races involving bullock carts across the country, saying the right to “dignity and fair treatment” wasn’t confined to human beings alone.

Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Ghose also cited the traditional bull race in Maharashtra, where the bovines are blindfolded and whipped to run amok by cheering crowds, as they upheld an appeal by the Animal Welfare Board of India.

“Bulls cannot be used as performing animals for jallikattu and bullock-cart race(s), since they are basically draught and pack animals, not anatomically designed for such performances,” the bench said, pointing out that kicking bulls and beating or overloading them amounted to cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.

The animal welfare board, a statutory body, had sought a ban on jallikattu and similar events in the country. It had contented that unwilling bulls were often tortured into making them participate in such events.

The bench accepted the board’s contention. “Every species has a right to life and security, subject to the law of the land…. Article 21 of the Constitution, while safeguarding the rights of humans, protects life and the word ‘life’ has been given an expanded definition and any disturbance from the basic environment which includes all forms of life, including animal life… fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution,” the court said.

“So far as animals are concerned, in our view, life means something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human beings, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honour and dignity.”

Jallikattu organisers had taken the stand that the bullfights were traditional end-of-harvest-season — January and February — events and sometimes took place during temple festivals closely associated with village life, especially in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu.

The organisers of the bullock-cart races in Maharashtra said the sport went back more than 300 years and that extreme care was taken so that the bullocks didn’t suffer any injury or pain.

The court rejected their arguments. “The findings of this investigation (board) clearly show that (the) bulls… used in jallikattu are subjected to extreme cruelty and unmitigated suffering,” Justice Radhakrishnan said.

The court pointed out that at least 80 per cent of the bulls observed had their ears cut, with three-fourths of the visible part — the pinna — absent.