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20

Animal Rahat is a sister concern of PETA. Dr Manilal Valliyate heads Animal Rahat and has added the following response to the ongoing discussion (article my me on Jallikattu, Response by Poorva Joshipura, CEO of PETA, my response to that article):

Hi Vidyut,

Apologies for taking this long to get back to you.

Introducing myself, I am a veterinarian who worked for nearly two decades trying to improve the welfare of animals in India, particularly working animals such as horses and cattle, is a son to a farmer and father to a 12 year old boy.

Let me share my perspective as a veterinarian and also a person having some basic understanding about large animal behaviour and welfare. Considering the broad category of animals- prey and predators- I am sure we all will agree that, bulls are prey animals. More than describing whether they are aggressive or docile, what we need to understand is when they are cornered or their movements are restricted, they have to either chose to ‘fight’ or adopt a ‘flight’ behaviour. Usually a fight scenario comes into picture, when they can’t escape from a difficult situation. Otherwise these ruminants would ideally, graze for hours or eat food, lie down and ruminate (chewing the cud- a process of digestion) unless bothered by a predator, which I think some humans are. A bull simply charging at people would be an exceptional situation. Yes, they would do it when they don’t have any other choice of responding to a stimuli of fear, pain or distress. In jallikattu, that’s exactly what people exploit. One of the globally accepted definition of animal welfare mandates, ‘freedom from’ pain, injury, disease, fear and distress so as to achieve reasonable welfare. When we know that jallikattu do not protect the bulls from any of these, there is no point in calling such events as our culture or tradition. Simply because, I don’t think we want our culture and tradition to labelled as ‘cruel’. I have been part of inspections of many jallikattu events from 2011 to 2013 and the bottom line is, one has to induce fear and pain and agitate a bull to push him out of the vadi-vasal (I call it a torture chamber) and face the tamers! Otherwise, if the people around the bull are not causing any harm, the bulls would simply eat, stand or lie down and chew the cud just as mentioned above. Probably, one can easily find such a harmless bull freely wandering in any urban area like Delhi, Lucknow or Noida, not because they chose to be in a chaos of traffic, but simply because they represent the unwanted by-product of the dairy industry abandoned on the roads.

My father was a farmer before he joined the police force in 70s. He still remember the ‘Kalapoottu’ (bull race) competition in Kerala which he had witnessed and was part of. While he used to plough his agricultural field with a pair of bulls he had and he also allowed them to be used for competition during the harvest festival. However, today I don’t think he supports such events anymore. Just because, he came to know more about the animals, the way they feel threatened and feel pain just like we all do. What I know now is he has taken a compassionate stand now based on his own learning of life and he no more support any such events that (ab)use animals.

My son, maybe because of my work and interests, has been watching the debate on jallikattu covered by the media. What I remember is, he telling me- can’t these people see that the bulls are frightened and are running for life and actually are in no mood to “play” with the people? He continues- it doesn’t make any sense at all, when people supporting jallikattu says, there is no cruelty! It’s right in front of you actually! You just need the eyes to see it. For my son, it is simple common sense. He says, people are using stupid excuses to justify their actions. What they need to think is, what if these bulls were actually their sons and daughters left to a mob to manhandle? It is surprising that, some people do claim that the bulls are like their children; but the truth is these children are often send to slaughter when they are useless, except for meat.

Though my views above are more on ethology and ethics, what I would like to emphasise is that, there is a law of the land, enacted in 1960 and under Section 3, it very clearly sates, “It shall be the duty of every person having the care or charge of any animal to take all reasonable measures to ensure the well-being of such animal and to prevent the infliction upon such animal of unnecessary pain or suffering.” There are Rules framed under the same PCA Act which very clearly says what is necessary suffering. But Jallikattu is not part of that exception, so is many other form of cruel animal entertainment. And most importantly why can’t we respect and implement the judgement of the topmost court of the country which ban jallikattu and similar events!  The Apex court has also stated that when culture and tradition are at variance with the law enacted by Parliament, the law takes precedence.

I can also confidentially say that, my arguments above can be scientifically demonstrated and that is what we do exactly at Animal Rahat- a sister organisation of PETA striving to improve the quality of life of working bulls in Maharashtra.

You may print this response, if you find it appropriate and helps the discussion.

Thank you.

Kind regards

Dr Manilal Valliyate

7

I am neither defending nor opposing jallikattu. Nor do I intend this to be an adverserial discussion. Bear with me, it is slightly long. The downside of describing behavior of bulls to those not trained to see it is that each picture seems to take a thousand words.

My response to the response by Poorva Joshipura, CEO of PETA India to my article on Jallikattu

While I don't agree with PETA India's view about the ban, I agree that the rights of animals must be protected. My main issue is that it does not seem familiar with the body language of cattle and sees everything as abuse, even when the bulls themselves clearly don't.

On the similarities between jallikattu and bullfighting—since you raised the point—there are many. You say weapons are used in bullfights—well guess what, they are also used during jallikattu events. During jallikattu, in the holding area, participants stab and jab bulls with sickles, spears, knives and sticks in order to force them to run toward the mob of men (which goes against their desire, which is to flee in the opposite direction). In bullfighting, the bulls are often deliberately disoriented. For jallikattu, bulls may be force-fed alcohol for the same purpose. Jallikattu participants also cause bulls intense pain by yanking their nose ropes, and jallikattu participants also punch, jump on and drag bulls to the ground and twist and bite their tails.

I will post here the video you refer to, that was included in my original article as visuals of the abuse Poorva mentions. An attempt to let bulls speak for themselves, so to say.

Sticks are commonly used to control livestock.If you have to use a stick through a narrow gap, your use is pretty much limited to "poke". This doesn't mean you're skewering the animal. Not something I like, but it is a fact of cattle rearing not limited to jallikattu. Also tail pulling, it is easy to see that the bull's movement is being controlled to angle him into a narrow space, except the last instance where it is to hold him back. To someone unaware of how cattle move or are moved, this may appear as random harassment, but this is likely shot outside the narrow pen the wary bull has to get into. Precise positioning using vulnerable body parts is normal. Not ideal. But not a jallikattu special either. Ask cattle transporters or... vets.

You claim jallikattu is similar to bullfighting, because weapons are used in the holding area. It may be possible, but so far I have yet to see blood on a bull entering the arena in any jallikattu video. It is also extremely unlikely that the cattle owners will take kindly to prime livestock being cut or injured by a mob. So I am just going to pass on this till I have some evidence it is prevalent.

About the "alcohol". The video is not certain it is alcohol. Supporters of jallikattu claim it is glucose water for a burst of energy. Whatever it is, the bull is drinking it willingly in the video. I don't think much will need to be done to make the bulls agitated. Not having control in a situation with a loud crowd and other bulls around will do the trick for most bulls.. Add to it the nature of the activity - youths dispersing when bull faces them, approaching in peripheral vision, pouncing - this sort of thing spooks all herbivores and is enough to make them flee. This is more along the line of harassment than brutality.

Few of the bulls appear intimidated by the men, though resentfully resigned to the control.Jallikattu or not, these are the same people they live with for the rest of the year, who care for them and are trusted, even if they are making freaky demands. Incidentally the same people who have cared for them well - you don't get these kind of bulls from neglect and brutality. Most of them are just extremely alert (watch ear and tail movements - ears pricked forward is alert, twitching back and forth is nervous, tucked tail is fear, head lowered is aggression). This is not fear, it is wariness. They burst out, get away from the youth and that is that. You will see it if you approach livestock at pasture. The more an animal is in the prime of health, the more it will startle, react. So bursting out of that area is about as normal as a racehorse bursting out of a gate. Some bulls are scared, definitely, where they go around trying to gore people. That is fear/anger behavior. And usually you'll find the crowd rapidly switch to calming the animal. Not always, not always successful. Basically the bull has "snapped". The bull has no idea which way is safety, feels cornered, so gets aggressive and does the next best thing, evicts people (the threat) from the arena. Or bulldozes through any and everything to get out of there leading to injuries for people and bulls. There ought to be safety protocols for handling this sort of thing, including the possibility of a referee kind of character who calls it a day for that bull if the men persist.

Cattle have strong flight responses. While they flee a threat, they aren't too scared unless they get trapped. It is a reflex. The bucking off of people trying to catch it. Left alone without further irritation, they will calm rapidly. For animals, "threat" is not how we interpret it. Anything from the unfamiliar to outright attack is a "threat". The usual response is a burst of adrenaline and a gallop away from the source. This really doesn't mean they are intimidated - reflex kind of thing. Spooked. Like we jump when someone goes "boo" is irritating, but not abuse - unlikely thought it may seem to someone not used to them. Or it would be impossible to have thousands of years of sport and get that same reaction over and over.

This is not to say it is "right" to play with them or that it is ethical. There is a need to engage with breeders of prime bulls, veterinarians, animal rights activists such as yourself, lawmakers and get perspectives and contribute to evolving more sustainable practices instead of helicoptering in with the "right interpretation" that those on the ground don't recognize. There will be negotiation. The worst of the practices will have to be chipped away. There will need to be convincing, not ordering. That is possible only when you have the buy in of those engaged in them.

But the most important thing from this video as well as others on the internet is the importance of a sturdy arena that the bull cannot exit and injure others or himself. Possibly with a little pen at the opposite end of the arena with view of arena blocked for the bulls to cool down where people other than owners should not be allowed. I repeat, I am not an expert or even familiar with jallikattu but it certainly appears that an area for bulls to escape to and cool down safely will largely reduce injuries for all. Regulation can actually achieve things of this sort if a determined effort is made to identify them.

There are other things, but my point is that there is a mix of abuse and normal behavior with cattle in the objections, which makes it difficult to tell what the prevalence of abuse because of jallikattu is. While this approach is very healthily pro-animals, it is hostile to their owners and considers them malicious by default to the point of making breeding and owning bulls at all unviable. This is a problematic view - that the animals who are clearly in excellent condition are better off not existing at all, because of your views on how they are treated on one day. These are bulls worth lakhs that you are consigning to being no better than butcher meat. And they will face worse injuries, because if more money is not to be spent on them, they will have to be provably economically unviable to be butchered. Not the few that accidentally get injured, but deliberate neglect and potentially injury by owners unable to sell them or earn from them anymore. Because here is a thing. An owner loves an animal he takes pride in, not one he has to feed at the cost of necessities for his own home. Livestock are not pets, they are property. Check out the vanishing male cattle in Maharashtra. There is a complete ban on slaughter now, but the law was similar to Tamil Nadu when these numbers happened - no slaughter of cows, only slaughter of economically unviable males. They get abandoned or starved to death now. They got butchered earlier, but every successive rural hardship has led to a decline in their numbers. Such are the alternatives you are recommending when you remove the one thing that makes them desirable and economically viable. With a  ban on jallikattu there remains little need for an indigenous cow owner to opt for continuing - this often includes stud fees that are 20 times the fees of artificial insemination - with imported sperm. You are wrong when you say it is entirely determined by dairy industry. It is, if there is no other use for non-dairy cattle, which you are ensuring.

You also claim the bulls used for jallikattu are “aggressive by nature and prone to attack”. Are you sure you’re not talking about the jallikattu players? The bulls run helter-skelter not because they are aggressive, but because they are scared. They are so scared they need to be coerced to participate through weapons and the cruel methods as described above.

In fact, a teacher in Mexico conducted an experiment to prove it is not the bulls, but the humans, who are aggressive. The teacher had the students stand in a bullfighting arena where a bull was let loose and matadors used red flags as they do during bullfights. As you can see in the video, the bull just wants to find a way out, and is working on doing so, without hurting anyone:

https://www.facebook.com/HolidogTimes/videos/vb.1077612508960066/1197700626951253/

The video shows bulls will not attack if not provoked.

You seem to think of bulls as terrified, timid creatures. They are not. They are capable of fear, of course, but they are perfectly capable of attacking people if they feel cornered- or, for that matter, otherwise. I have to disagree completely here to the point of DON'T TRY THIS. This video is extremely misleading bullshit. The "bull" in the video is a calf. Watch him run - all legs, no bulk, total frisky. Still has his baby coat of hair. Adorable max, but really he wouldn't do anything even if the students petted him. Likely around a year to a year and half old, though guesstimate - not familiar with the development of that breed. The male aggressive behavior is a part of sexual maturity. You won't see it in calfs! It wouldn't matter even if the students moved all they want or got aggressive. The calf would shy away. There is a reason bulls are castrated as a medical practice. It is because adult males can be very aggressive and territorial. Never mind me. If you can trust the University of Wisconsin Department of Dairy Science to not have an agenda of protecting jallikattu or any other bullfighting, here's an excerpt from their Farm Safety Fact Sheets. This excerpt is on page 2.

I also have no idea why you think bulls aren't aggressive. I've met many bulls who would dispute that. Heck I know a couple that went out of their way to make that point. Strangers couldn't pass one of those damned critters without risking getting gored. Zero provocation. Just existence was enough. Magnificent animal, but liked people about as much as I do, was just less inhibited about it. Loved him. From a distance. To the best of my knowledge, he was never mistreated. Was the darling of the family, whom he never attacked. Put him in that Facebook video and it would never get uploaded. There would be a news headline "Bull gores x students in an attempt at a Facebook video gone horrily wrong." Just like good temperament, bad temperament too is a combination of nature and nurture. And sometimes just the personality of the animal. Most bulls fall somewhere in the middle, though all are territorial to some degree unless castrated. They can also be trained otherwise, but this is unnatural behavior, not easy and cannot be relied on with anyone other than their trainer. They may be trained for fights too, but you cannot invent aggression in an animal. Only train discipline or how to channel aggression.

This is one thing I want to insist - regardless of jallikattu or bullfighting. Please stop spreading disinformation that could put people at risk. You are a voice of authority related with animals. The chances are that you could get a gullible urban supporter gored. Rural folks who know bulls won't believe.

You have concluded your piece by mentioning that other animals suffer—but the existence of one type of suffering cannot justify another. If it did, setting animal rights aside, even human rights would never progress. You, as a woman, or me as a woman, would likely never have been educated or have the opportunities we have today if people thought this way.

It is a minor point, but defending my honor here. The article is public. You are implying I conclude the article justifying jallikattu by bringing in other instances of animal suffering. Actually, that is not how the article ends. The PETA video which actually makes the opposite argument comes after that. Entirely voluntarily. Why would I do that if I wanted to conclude with justifications of jallikattu and ignore harm to cattle as something other animals go through too?

The rights of animals aren't a negotiable issue for me. My disagreement is with what constitutes abuse as well as whether the alternative is better or worse. I am also concerned about people and their livelihoods. And I am not concluding that jallikattu does not involve abuse. I am trying to find out more. I am trying to decode the complaints and see what appear to be genuine areas of concern and what appears to be a misunderstanding. I am interested in knowing whether there is a possibility that allows all to thrive without harming another.

17

The following is the response by Poorva Joshipura, CEO of PETA India to my article on Jallikattu published yesterday. Obviously PETA India disagrees with those wanting jallikattu to not be banned, but Poorva asserts a similarity between jallikattu and bullfighting, raises questions about injuries to humans and animals and questions the validity of the argument that a ban on jallikattu would harm the survival of indigenous breeds of cattle. 

Dear Vidyut,

I am the CEO of PETA India and I have read your article essentially defending jallikattu.

Please know that nobody ever said jallikattu is bullfighting nor used arguments against bullfighting for jallikattu—jallikattu is jallikattu, a cruelty on its own (which admittedly has some similarities to bullfighting). Jallikattu is a spectacle in which a mob of grown men taunt, chase and deliberately terrify bulls. These animals become so panicked they slip, fall, run into barriers and traffic, and even jump off cliffs, so desperate are they to escape. They also accidentally run smack straight into people while attempting to flee, causing numerous human injuries and deaths. From 2010 to 2014, media outlets reported that there were some 1,100 human injuries and 17 deaths caused by jallikattu-style events, including the death of a child. The actual number is probably higher since many injuries likely weren’t reported in the news.

Your piece, which claims “[jallikattu] is by no means a fight that endangers the animals” and that “the worst a bull will usually come to is exhaustion and injuries” is false, as bulls not only commonly break their bones, but some bulls like some humans also lose their lives. In any case, causing unnecessary suffering and injuries to bulls is also rightly against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act 1960. Your point that “I don’t think even PETA will dispute this” is also, therefore, false. It would be nice for you to contact PETA rather than to assume anything and write what you think PETA would say.

On the similarities between jallikattu and bullfighting—since you raised the point—there are many. You say weapons are used in bullfights—well guess what, they are also used during jallikattu events. During jallikattu, in the holding area, participants stab and jab bulls with sickles, spears, knives and sticks in order to force them to run toward the mob of men (which goes against their desire, which is to flee in the opposite direction). In bullfighting, the bulls are often deliberately disoriented. For jallikattu, bulls may be force-fed alcohol for the same purpose. Jallikattu participants also cause bulls intense pain by yanking their nose ropes, and jallikattu participants also punch, jump on and drag bulls to the ground and twist and bite their tails.

You also claim the bulls used for jallikattu are “aggressive by nature and prone to attack”. Are you sure you’re not talking about the jallikattu players? The bulls run helter-skelter not because they are aggressive, but because they are scared. They are so scared they need to be coerced to participate through weapons and the cruel methods as described above.

In fact, a teacher in Mexico conducted an experiment to prove it is not the bulls, but the humans, who are aggressive. The teacher had the students stand in a bullfighting arena where a bull was let loose and matadors used red flags as they do during bullfights. As you can see in the video, the bull just wants to find a way out, and is working on doing so, without hurting anyone:

This Teacher Showed The True Cruelty Of Bullfighting

Say no to bullfighting!

Posted by The Holidog Times on 20hb Disember 2016

The video shows bulls will not attack if not provoked.

So desperate have jallikattu supporters become to be allowed to taunt bulls, they have come up with all sorts of ridiculous arguments, such as that jallikattu is somehow a native breed conservation scheme. Ha! Nothing can be further from the truth. The prevalence of various breeds of cattle used by humans in India is almost entirely determined by the choices of the country’s dairy industry. This is because humans manipulate domesticated breeds to suit their own purposes, such as increased milk production. The industry was determining which types of cow were bred in India long before the Supreme Court confirmed a ban on jallikattu in 2014. In other words, where there is an interest in choosing native breeds over those who are foreign or cross-bred, the influence has to be put on the dairy industry, and that is happening elsewhere. And of course the ban on the use of bulls in performances is just that—it does not prevent anyone from keeping cattle for other purposes should they choose.

You have concluded your piece by mentioning that other animals suffer—but the existence of one type of suffering cannot justify another. If it did, setting animal rights aside, even human rights would never progress. You, as a woman, or me as a woman, would likely never have been educated or have the opportunities we have today if people thought this way.

Thank you very much for including the video shared with you by Sachin at the end, but your inclusion of it will not undo the damage your piece may otherwise do to bulls who need all of the support they get. And by the way, those videos were taken at a time when jallikattu was conducted under established rules and regulations. Pro-jallikattu advocates already made the arguments to the Supreme Court that the spectacle can once again be conducted under such rules, but the court has acknowledged that causing bulls fear and forcing them to run this way is not only the infliction of unnecessary suffering, which is against Indian law, but also incredibly hard on this species of animal in particular. To understand more about jallikattu, please read the attached Supreme Court order.

By the way, it’s not only jallikattu which is banned under Indian law but also dogfighting, cockfighting, bull racing, bullfighting, the use of certain species of animals in performances like circuses and film and more and the bans apply India-wide, not only in Tamil Nadu. That’s because just as it would be wrong to get kicks off of the expense of abusing a woman or a child, it is wrong to get kicks off of the abuse of animals just because they are vulnerable and unlike humans, cannot speak up for themselves.

And for anyone who really wants to show their strength, I invite them to join PETA India. It takes much more strength to stand up for what’s right, than to be part of a mob taunting an animal who has not chosen to be there.

I do wish you would not glorify cruelty to animals, and quite frankly I wish you would take your piece down or modify it. It’s the animals who are the victims here, and the animals desperately need us on their side. Anyway, you have my direct email address now. Please do feel free to touch base with me in the future.

Kindest regards,
Poorva Joshipura
CEO
PETA India

She has also attached: Jallikattu judgement SSC

I will respond to Poorva Joshipura, PETA India separately later without detracting from it in any way here. My hope is to find a middle ground that does justice to both animals and man. I welcome your views as well. A dialogue of this nature can only enrich our collective awareness and thoughtfulness with regard to issues that impact lives, regardless of conclusion.