A misplaced culture – Jallikattu

I really didn’t want to post this, but seeing the utter vulgarity & vile spewed by chauvinists (lay person, gurus, godmen, politicians, celebrities, et al), it feels like some cogent argument against this manic fervour is worth the effort.
tl;dr: Sallikattu/Jallikattu (SK) is a mode of entertainment, practiced in the southern state of India called Tamil Nadu (TN), which is unconscious/unmindful of the harm done unto the animal. There is no logic or basis for continuing it.
There are 8 major points in total & a few minor points. Read at the risk of gaining a new perspective (which isn’t incensed by imagined notions of valour, masculinity, culture, love, etc.).
Point 1: None of the chauvinists are fighting for a secure variation of SK where the bull is unharmed.
Point 2: All-India & TN-specific data shows that SK has done nothing to maintain the native breeds & their numbers have been depleting anyway, often accelerated by the very need/greed of livestock farmers. Organizations like Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan are more effective than SK.
Point 3: The relationship between farmers & cattle is commercial & not sentimental else there would be no conflict at all whether SK is held or not. E.g. I will not sell my dog-brother just because I can’t make money out of him.
Point 4: There is no one Tamizh culture & a significant portion of TN doesn’t even participate in SK.
Point 5: There is no corporate ploy in banning SK. TN indigenous : crossbred/exotic ratio is so low that any shrewd corporate would target other states.
Point 6: There is no Western ideology/ploy in play here. Being considerate should be a human trait & not a geographic indicator.
Point 7: You cannot have fun at the expense of another person’s discomfort. That is the same reason eve-teasing is prohibited (why!? We aren’t killing the girls!? is a pathetic argument), ragging is prohibited, etc.
Point 8: Whatever else you want banned if SK is to be banned, probably deserves to be banned. Please go ahead & fight for banning biriyani, horse-racing, dog-fights, etc. or help those who are working on that or just get the hell out of their way.
What is revealed is the politically incorrect observation that farmer need/greed is the reason behind SK, culture, native breeds vanishing, etc.
tl;dr ends
Now for the starchy details (because I don’t serve meaty details):
Why should I care? If you care about animals, then it might be helpful to see how convoluted the violent lay-person can be. If you care about retaining tradition, historic practices etc. then it might help you see how none of them are affected because of this. If you care about building an argument against violent people, this might be a template.
What is SK? Read here. Feel free to Google for more about Jallikattu (you might find nothing if you searched for sallikattu).
Pronounced: Jul (like hull) – lee – cut – uh

Point 1:

None of the chauvinists are fighting for a secure variation of the sport where the bull is unharmed, unagitated & insured (like an accident & medical insurance) against any harm. The chauvinists fall in 2 camps: (a) Denying that harm has ever happened or is even possible (b) Insisting on harm being part of the sport & harm done to the bull is no big deal. There is sufficient data against (a) (please study the evidence supplied to the SC & other statistics, available in the public domain). (b) reeks of violence & utter disregard & is not a sign of any society I consider cultured. Skip to point 2, in case you aren’t interested in how a secure SK (I call it ahimsa-SK) can be achieved.

Some understand what it will take to setup a secure variation & respond with “That is too complicated/expensive for a village/farmer”. To which I respond with, “Many celebrities & illogical citizens are with you! Invite contribution & resources from them (might actually make them vanish) & you can easily setup the secure version. All it takes is a clean & well maintained shed into which the bulls are admitted 5-8 days in advance. Qualified personnel (from the village) to bathe & feed the bulls fodder that is deemed natural to the bulls. Strict security around who can enter these sheds or even loiter around them. Regulated water supply (disallowing alcohol & other stimulants to be introduced). No prodding or hurting the bull to get enraged. If the bull is hurt (sprains, breaks its leg, tailbone damage, horn broken, etc.) then all participants & organizers must shell out the insurance money & take care of the bull for the rest of its natural life. Since these people can be devious (and “accidentally” kill the animal), the bull will be admitted in an animal care centre & the money will be handed over to them upfront (computed as per expected remaining length of life). Throughout the event (+/- 4 days) a live CCTV camera footage is broadcast for anyone who wishes to subscribe to it to satisfy themselves that the bull is indeed unharmed. Recording will be made available for scrutiny. On the day of the event, personnel carrying no harmful substance on their body will escort the bull to the exit point & the bull released. All participants will be checked for carrying anything that might harm the bull (powders, sharp objects, etc.) before entering the arena. Simple? Let the games begin!

Point 2 (this is a large point):

SK is the only means for maintaining native breeds. This assumes 2 things: (a) TN has a high native breed population which needs to be maintained (b) SK has managed to maintain native breeds unlike any other scheme adopted in other regions in India (because all non-Indian ideas are bad, right!? :-/ )
Do study the data here. Only 7 other states have low indigenous:crossbred/exotic ratio as TN does. The rest have a good no. of native breeds … WITHOUT SK! Which means other states have managed to protect their native breeds much better than TN without SK. The Tamizhan is gaslighting himself & others into believing that SK indeed saves native breeds. Oh! And btw, SK deals with only a handful of breeds. Even if SK was to preserve any breed, it would only be a few. The other native breeds whose bulls aren’t belligerent will die anyway (SK or not) & no one cares about that.
Regarding point (b), see the video below:
It is in Tamizh & you can ignore it if you don’t know the language. The narrator, in a pretentious attempt to appear intelligent, basically tries to make a case for how irresponsible the govt. has been in maintaining local breeds (this is known to be the problem all over India for anything & everything & not just cattle breeds. Hence, not sure why the narrator feels that he has had some significant insight) & hence, provides a solution (sic) of having a dairy reforms minister (solving govt. problems with more administration!), rewarding indigenous breed preservation, R&D, free fodder for native breeds, preserve temple cows, regulate lobbying & introduce agriculture & farming culture in schools. I am not going to comment on these because the narrator’s main point is the SK must be retained for native breeds to flourish. I fail to see how. None of the breeds that he marks as extinct (they are, actually, endangered) were used in SK. Even if they were (I didn’t find any literature), SK didn’t prevent them from “going extinct”. So any argument that SK saves animals from going extinct is humbug.
Let me take down the data shared in the video (2:10; I have no clue why he cites the state-wise data prior to that). According to the narrator there were 130 breeds in India about a 100 years ago, i.e. in 1912-1916, with only 37 remaining. Given that the Dept. of Animal Husbandry has conducted their 19th census in 2012, I am not sure what the source of that claim about 1912-1916 census is. Nevertheless, the current 37 is a no. we agree on. These are all-India statistics & not just TN. Hence, despite SK, the breeds have fallen from 130 (unverified claims) to 37. For the past 100 years, SK was flourishing, yes? Which means SK is poor measure against the “extinction” of indigenous variety of cows. One could be devious & say that SK over the past 100 years is exactly why the native breeds vanished, if causality is what we are looking for. So SK does very little to protect native breeds. You might say, were it not for SK, these breeds would have vanished faster & we’d have none today. Again, the ones vanishing/vanished weren’t participating in SK. SK, then, is a means (according to you) to slow the rate of vanishing, which means in 37 years (extrapolating the trend) all native breeds will vanish anyway. So SK is not going to save the world; just delay its demise.
If I have humored that train of thought enough, I will return to the obvious statement – SK has had no impact on native breeds vanishing or remaining. A lot of the quoted TN native breeds were reared by tribals & like many things tribal, they are also endangered. Even if SK was removed as long as draught animals are required all SK breeds will continue to be. The more machinery becomes available to the farmer the less they will need these animals, the more irrelevant SK will become for preserving these breeds.
Let’s take one of the SK breeds – Kangeyam (, pick cattle & then Kangeyam & click submit). It is best suited as a draught animal. Milk yield is below average of most crossbreeds. The fat % is also lower. It might be safe to summarize that its primary purpose is surely not for milk production (too expensive for a low yield). Which means, all I (as a farmer) need from this breed is bull(ocks) to do physical labour. Why again do I need SK for that? Look at the numbers that have fallen from 1997 to 2013. These were years when SK was at its peak. Despite that, these numbers have fallen drastically owing simply to the increased access to machinery & high-yielding breeds of cows.
More details of breed purposes here: http://dairyknowledge.in/sites/default/files/3.1_0.pdf
It is the govt. move to start cross-breeding milch cattle in the 1960s & earlier which began a race for profit that the farmers were after. Dairy farmers didn’t want to be excluded from the dairy corporations’ advantage & hence, admitted cross-breeding.
I will say the politically incorrect thing – farmer need/greed (occasionally coerced by govt. policy) is the reason why native breeds are vanishing. They have always moved to breeds that will keep making them money & then dropped native breeds. Has nothing to do with SK. With increased access to machinery, whether SK is banned & no alternative adopted or not, the SK breeds (about 4-6 in no.) will find less patronage & the farmers will move to other breeds but how do we explain the “100 breeds” that have gone “extinct” even though SK was practiced?

Point 3:

These aren’t just bulls. These are the farmer’s children. This is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard esp. when the person saying it follows it up with “Now, without SK we will have to sell them to the slaughterhouse!” Wait, what!? I have 3 children. We are a family of basket weavers. We have practiced it for 100’s of years. Now that all baskets are manufactured in plastic, I do not make enough money & neither will they. Hence, I am going to sell my daughters to a brothel. Sounds natural? There are probably stories like that in real life where the parents did sell the child to a brothel for money, etc. But we don’t look at those & say “It was inevitable”. We create NGO’s for saving those girls. The govt. creates policy for preventing such incidents from happening. We fight & demand this of the govt. I don’t see anyone fighting for the removal of slaughterhouses! Because a lot of these cultured humans eat meat & wear leather. So, they benefit from the slaughter anyway. You cannot claim a special bond, a family bond, a parent-child relationship & then cite economics for sending your “babies” to the slaughterhouse. Set them free. Let them roam around without harm coming their way. STOP LOOKING FOR WAYS TO MAKE MONEY OF THEM! If you care about native breeds purely because you would like some to remain, follow the example of organizations like Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan & many others who are doing just that without SK & other illogical excuses. Here is what one who truly loves his bulls as children would do – feed them & keep them alive & well till they die & stop rearing any more bulls because it is not manageable (like not having a 7th child). You can just let them graze or let them die naturally as perhaps you will, too.

Point 4:

This is the mark of our culture. What culture? The Tamizh culture, of course. Cook the pongal, eat sugarcane, greet each other… that one? Yes, and taming the bull. Wait! Do you let the milk boil over or do you not? How does that matter? There are 2 cultures right there for you. The Tamizh culture like any state culture in India is variegated & to call one thing as indicative of Tamizh culture is the equivalent of someone saying Hindi is the Indian language (& the Tamizhan loves that when it happens). Within any 10 sqkm there are multiple cultural practices thriving. E.g. I have not (and neither has anyone in my extended family & theirs) have had anything to do with SK. We do have a lot to do with Marghazhi practices. Would non-practioners of it be deemed non-Tamizh?
Cooking in kalchattis was also a practice common in TN (one can call it a cultural indicator of TN). Why hasn’t there been a single protest for the various convenient utensils that have replaced it? Why aren’t there protests outside Rathna Stores & Saravana Stores, etc.? Where are all the people who are worried about culture & tradition? The Devadasis were also a part of Tamizh culture (all the way back to Cholas). I didn’t hear anyone protest the abolishment of that system.
So what culture are we preserving? A convenient & entertaining one? Or one that is mindful & introspective (which, hopefully, went into abolishing the Devadasi system)? If we as a society cannot pause & revaluate our “culture” & make amends, we are brutes & have no culture to speak of. The way some anti-SK or pro-Peta folks have been lampooned & abused seems to indicate that there are more of brutes than any cultured society. And if there ever will be a secure SK version (I am calling it ahimsa-SK), then please drop the “culture” of excluding Dalits in participating in it. In the meantime, bring back the kalchattis!
BTW, anything to do with bulls & being mauled by them is not an immediate evidence of SK. So please stop quoting Indus Valley tablets (the original ones). Most people have no clue what those inscriptions meant let alone pictures!

Point 5:

This is just a corporate ploy. The corporate ploy happened decades ago when Amul was setup. SK affects very little of the dairy industry. As already stated, TN’s indigenous to crossbred/exotic ratio is so low that it is not even worth plotting against the low native breed population. Actually many businesses were branding some of these events. It actually would be a loss to some businesses. I won’t deliberate on this further until someone shows me a link between Amul, Aavin, Aarey, Mother Dairy, Paras or any other dairy corporation funding & staging these SK atrocities.

Point 6:

This is just a Western intervention. This is also found in the video linked above. The narrator says (around 1:20 into the video) “Peta is from a country which eats the most meat”. Spoken by a narrator from a country which exports the most beef! Indians love to make the Westerner the evil person. They are an easy target especially with their blatant commercial interests. Peta represents animals (mostly) & not USA. The evidence was provided by Peta India. They aren’t targeting only SK. More here.  So if we leave Peta to their cause – how is the West involved here? Oh! Yes, the exotic breeds. This has been covered in Point 2.
What about milk production monopoly! Last time I checked Amul, Aarey, Aavin, Mother Dairy do not have any foreign investments (talks are underway, though).
What about all this animal rights! What about it? Are you saying animal rights is a Western notion & India has always treated animals negligently & brutally? Time for change, then, yes?
I find it utterly stupid when Indians bash Western research which says that their milk production techniques are best but immediately laud them when the same Western research says that A2 milk is better than A1 milk! Confirmation bias in its worst form!

Point 7:

What’s the issue with a little fun. So said the teenage boys after getting the girls drunk and… So said the vulgar dentist after killing Cecil the lion. So said the little girls as they set fire to the kitty’s tail. So said every poacher. But you think SK is harmless fun & cannot be equated to these examples. Sure. Make it harmless fun & no one will object. Make it harmless for everyone & fun for everyone. Like frisbee with your dog-brother. Why isn’t anyone willing to move a muscle in that direction? Make it so & then talk.

Point 8:

What about biriyani & horse-racing? You should not race on a horse after eating loads of biriyani! Abolish them both or make biriyani only from dead carcasses (natural deaths). If you are unwilling to actively work towards the abolishment of such practices, then support those who do or get out of their way. This line of argument is the most stupid one.

A bunch of nonsensical points:

1. What will a city dweller know! Err… why isn’t this raised about city-dwelling supporters of SK?
2. It is a mark of valour & masculinity: Harming an animal is? We have invented many different sports to judge valour & endurance. Let’s pick those that don’t harm animals, the environment & human beings (but if they want to be, be my guest). Stop propagating age-old myths of gender stereotypes (doesn’t matter if you are great guru recommending these things).
3. It is a bond between animal & human: The rope? Of all the ways to bond, this is the only one that is to be practiced? I have spent weeks with a calf where we played & ate together & fell asleep together & I read him stories, etc. Bond with the intent of nourishing life & goodness.
4. It is not like Spanish bullfighting where they kill the bull: Ok. Agreed. Not sure what the point is. Oh! That it is not as bad as killing but just maiming or agitating or prodding or harming the bull? Sure, SK is lesser of the two evils. Let’s work towards abolishing both. BTW, all those who think that in the West (basically, outside India) bulls are only killed in their sport are clearly uneducated! Read a little more before deciding that your race/culture is the best!

Observed behaviour:

The vulgarity & violence with which the so-called Tamizhan has attacked Peta & Peta supporters, SC, all non-Tamizhans speaking against this violence or SK, etc. reveals a very necessary question: What culture are these people talking about? What culture do they want to uphold?

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