Sports which involve animals, birds and insects have always given rise to a furious debate – are cultural traditions more important than animal rights? It is this very debate which came to the limelight during the Jallikattu protests in India. Like this bull-taming festival, there are many others that are conducted in the remote areas of the country. These sports become a source of entertainment and profit. Sadly, at the cost of endless pain and suffering for the animals.
In India, cockfights are common in the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Commonly a gambling activity, it is popular during the festival of Sankranti. A cock or rooster fight is a bloody battle between which takes place in a cockpit. In some cases, sharp objects like knives are attached to the birds as well. While not all the birds die, most are left in a pathetic condition suffering physically and mentally. Of course, a sport like this completely violates the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Kambala is an annual buffalo race organized by farming communities to please the Gods for a good harvest. In this 300-year-old traditional sport, male buffaloes are forced to run on muddy paddy fields, controlled by competing farmers or landlords. In a bid to win, the bulls are whipped to make them run faster and ropes are tied in their nostrils to control the animal. As a result, they are seriously injured by the end of the race. Animal activists and organisations like PETA have cited evidence to prove the illegality of this sport and even though it was ordered to stop in 2016, it was re-legalized in 2017.
Cruel and bloody dogfights take place in the outskirts of states like Haryana, Punjab and Delhi. Obviously, they are conducted secretly as nor the sport, neither the betting is legal in India. To make the dog aggressive, they are drugged, kept starving and locked up in a cage. The most aggressive dog is likely to win the game and the prize money, somewhere between Rs. 1-10 lakhs, is given to the owner. Specific breeds like Pitbulls are trained for this fight. To make them stronger they are made to pull SUV tyres but still end up seriously injured or even die. Despite the fact that causing injury to the animal is illegal under the Indian Penal Code, the popularity of the sport has not decreased.
These fights are conducted in Assam and are considered to be an intrinsic part of their temple traditions. They are also an important aspect of the Magh Bihu festival. The temple priests were all up in arms when the court prohibited this sport. They argued that the birds were taken care of and were released after the game. What they failed to consider is that they are left with severe injuries and their crest is shaved off so that they do not enter the competition again. Because they are provoked before the fights by drugging and starving them, once let loose with the other birds, hunger forces them to attack each other.
Bullfighting in India has been banned since 1960. However, the government in Goa has been striving hard to uplift the ban and make it legal. The sport was banned after a spectator was killed by an angry bull. Bullfighting is not only harmful for the bulls but compromises public safety as well, especially as they are held in the open without any barricades. Compared to other animals, bulls are peaceful animals. A lot goes on behind the scenes to make them aggressive. They are made to run with heavyweights around their neck and their horns are filed sharp enough so that they are able to deeply wound the component.
What’s the point of entertainment which comes at the cost of endless suffering and torture of animals? On paper, all these spots are banned- partially and fully- but yet they are being organized in the remote areas. Despite having comprehensive animal laws, lack of implementation and amendments makes enough room for the offenders to get away with abuse against animals.