A great tragedy has befallen innocent Jallikattu bulls in India.
WARNING. NOT AN EASY READ.
Egged on by juvenile animal rights activists, their enthusiasm captured and curated by vested interests, and finally condemned by an incoherent judgment with strange reasoning. Innocent, magnificent, indigenous bulls who have been the most pampered beasts in India for the past 1000+ years now have no reason to live. Their raison-d-etre’ has been snatched away. This is a great example of legal activism gone spectacularly awry. This is my 471st post on this blog, and the most difficult one for me to write.
A backgrounder of Jallikattu
For those who have no idea what this event is. Stop right here and read my 2008 blog on it. “On Jallikattu” and some misconceptions in this comment. I had blogged about it again in 2009 following another SC ban. Have you read the post? If you’ve read it, all you need to take away for the rest of this article is the following : The bull isnt killed or injured at the end of the event. Set aside the “torment” during the event itself for now. We will get to it after we analyze the judgment.
May 07 2014, a black day for the bulls. Supreme Court bans the sport (Judgment)
A 2 judge panel of the 30 judge Supreme Court of India on May 7 essentially declared Jallikattu to be illegal. The actual “legalese” isn’t that important but for completeness lets see what that is.
- For the past few years, Jallikattu was allowed under the Tamilnadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act 2009 (TNRJ) which prescribed elaborate rules for conduct of the event. This included mandatory presence of veternarians, videographing, requirements for barricades,. involvement of NGOs, permission from the collector, registration of the bulls, etc.
- The other act set up as a conflict is the PCA (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1982). The operative pieces are Sec 11 (1) (a) which proscribes such catch all things as “kicking, beating, ..” and Sec 11 (1) (m) which proscribes fighting for entertainment.
- The judgment essentially says – the PCA when it comes to Jallikattu is of such an absolute nature that no amount of regulation (TNRJ) can possibly assuage it. Therefore the state legislation, TNRJ, has to be killed and the widest possible reading of PCA must be applied to this particular event.
The most frustrating part of the argument is the incoherence and multiple lines of attack each unable to stand on its own. The two winners are
- CHARGE: Jallikattu has no cultural or historical significance to Tamils at all (AWBI pp4) BUT LOOK even if you prove otherwise it doesnt matter because PCA is a welfare legislation by parliament and can squish culture and religious traditions of this community.
- CHARGE: Jallikattu bulls are subjected to great torture and physical injury BUT LOOK dont bother proving this to be false. Our objection is now on the basis of “Speciesism” – Bulls cannot be humiliated and mentally tortured in this manner.
So these charges are just distractions. You can spend all your effort demolishing these strawmen, it is of no use to the final outcome. One of the critical points is the following – the duration of the event. One would expect that a searching scrutiny would necessarily take into account these facts.
- Whatever you think about the biting, pushing, kicking, punching of the bull. No one contests that the actual event lasts only a few minutes.
- The pre Jallikattu confinement of the bull could last a couple of hours as each bull takes its turn exiting the opening (Vadivaasal) The post Jallikattu harassment lasts a few minutes until the owner/trainer is able to lasso the bull and secure it.
- No one disputes that the rest of the year 364 days, the bulls lead a kings life.
- Here is the courts response to this. Look at the standard here – it is no longer about physical injury or even temporary mental stress due to fight/flight responses.
Physical abuse is not the only kind of injury that is illegal and hurtful. Mental abuse is also amongst the worst kind of abuse as it leaves a lifelong mark on the mind. It is a known fact that victims of accident, crime or disasters recover from their physical injuries in certain time but mental injuries remain etched for decades, play havoc in day to day life. Animals, irrespective of the fact whether they can express it or not, in this particular case were seen going through the same shock and terror as a person goes into in a hostage situation.
If you unravel the judgment for the most plausible standalone reason for the ban, it is found in PP 59 – It is called “Speciesism” – this elevates animals rights to that of humans.
Speciesism is also described as the widespread discrimination that is practised by man against the other species, that is a prejudice or attitude of bias towards the interest of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species. peciesism as a concept used to be compared with Racism and Sexism on the ground that all those refer to discrimination that tend to promote or encourage domination and exploitation of members of one group by another.
In short, species-ism is like racism. Would you allow whites to chase blacks, or upper castes to chase tribals, in this manner for even a few minutes ? It is quite astounding that this extreme standard, is sought to be applied to Jallikattu. Even if you grant this to be the new judicial standard for animals, this is sought to be subjugated by the “Doctrine of Necessity”. I’ve been researching on animals rights for a few months now – one of the cornerstones of speciesism is non-slaughter and its main proponents are vegan activists. The only exception for killing an animal under the doctrine of necessity is in self defence. Exactly the same as the doctrine of necessity as applied to humans. So somewhere there is a misunderstanding of the core concept of species-ism.
It is no ones case that taking a bull to Kerala in a packed truck and slitting its throat and eating beef fry is necessary to live . So if you can work through the arguments, you will find an incoherent position that is at odds with other laws and practices. An anomalous situation has emerged where you have a mixture of standards – extreme cruelty tolerated under the same body of laws that trumpets “species-ism” as the standard for other kinds of activities.
Facts – just for the record
As I have stated above, there is little use debating the facts of PETA and AWBI because they are strawmen. Even if we demolish the misinformation campaign, which is childs play, we still cant get over the speciesism standard. But for completeness and to help in a review petition – let me address the facts.
Cruelty to animals
Man and beast have intricate and diverse relationships especially in India. There is no one correct way to connect with an animal. Dont ever, ever, ever, pretend that you even understand to 1% the emotional bond between a Jallikattu bull and its owner. Dont ever, ever consider your urban westernized boundaries are superior to his rural Hindu Tamil ones. Dont ever, ever, think that your bond to your dogs Tommy, Julie, or Bobby are more “proper” than his bonds with his bulls Mayandi, Karuppu, or Thalai.
Urban, recently westernized Indians, may never understand what it is to rub your face against the head of a bull, while you can feel its power rippling through its muscles. I certainly dont, but the difference is I acknowledge that the other people do. Pinching, poking, pulling the tail can appear to be offensive, and yes can cause pain. But that isnt the whole picture now is it? You have to consider the whole life of how the bull, from when it was a cute little bully calf has been treated and prepared for this day. So what should a court do when two parties have dramatically divergent views of acceptable conduct. There has to be a way to minimize the subjectivity of the situation. I suggest that we should use a black box approach for a more logical way to resolve the dispute.
Bulls In —-> [[ BLACK BOX W CHARGES]] —–> Bulls Out
You take the sum total of all the charges , twisting, pulling, biting, punching, shouting, putting liquour, smearing lemon, etc and put in in a black box. Then you observe the bulls that come out. If they come out tattered, covered in blood , missing a horn, broken hooves – you have a case to look deeper. In this case, the bulls come out shining ! A fair number of bulls, the most aggressive ones, literally have no hands laid on them. So the logical conclusion of such an empirical analysis is obvious – there is no evidence of physical harm – mental agony is hard to measure in humans, let alone bovines. So you err on the side of freedom and let the event pass.
Now lets turn to the facts presented by AWBI.
Incidents of biting tail, twisting, poking with stick, irritants. These are used to incite the bull and get it out into the arena. What % of bulls were bitten ? Were bulls bitten as a custom or only when they refused to enter the arena? How deep were the bites ? As a result of the twisting how many bulls had their tails broken? These are critical facts that havent been presented. They have just documented existence of these practices.
Roping, making bulls stand, move sideways, denial of shade. Once again go back to my points in the last section. Is this the judicial standard ? In slaughter shandies bulls stand in the sun for hours before being selected by an agent. Every single cow and bull is roped in India. Bovines graze in the sun and rain naturally too. This is just silly.
Death and injury to bulls Should be the clincher, yet stunningly little has been offered here. Two, I repeat just two bulls. out of 500+ participants were said to be injured by falling into a agricultural well. They have only documented ONE incident of a bull getting killed . But the details reveal that post the event in Alaganallur, the bull ran through the town and collided with a bus. This is in no way connected to the event itself.
The point is none of the offenses are integral to the event itself and are therefore open to regulation.
We can go further into the facts – but it is a futile exercise.
Slaughter vs Speciesism – is coherence possible ?
The judgment is incoherent because the speciesism standard will fail spectacularly in almost all other judicial cases involving interactions with animals. But nowhere is it starker than the issue of slaughter. The activists are nowhere to be found when it turns out that post banning of Jallikattu some bulls are loaded onto trucks to the kill floors of Kerala.
This is May 2014 – the next Jallikattu is seven months away. Even if you plead guilty to all of the charges brought forth by the activists and upheld by the court. Here is the truth. If this ban wasnt in force, some of these bulls would have lived a kings life for a full seven months before the “fateful day where they will be pulled and punched it for a few minutes“. Slaughter is also a game. The outcome is pre-determined. Once a bull gets on that truck to KL there is no escape from the blade. These activists are squarely responsible for the murder of these animals.
Animal activists in India, probably due to ignorance, young age, or imitation are misguided. They do not recognize the completely different connection between the Hindu and the animal kingdom. This is not America. We have much to be proud of in the way we treat our animals. Our livestock may roam the streets, perhaps in squalor in solidarity with their human counterparts, but we do not do feedlots and veal crates. A majority of our cows are still impregnated by sex with real bulls not by a long steel tube like in the west. Our milk procurement still depends on milking by hand, not in giant rotary parlours.
No cow or calf or bull, and I do mean not a single bovine in the USA will ever be touched by a human nor know a single moment of human kindness in its entire (but brief) life. Tell me, is this the case with Jallikattu? Every one of these bulls have names – they respond to their owners like your kids do. The owners give them the best food, take them running, give them swimming training, teach them to dig in their heels and work the ground with their horns. This pop activism has unfortunately taken advantage of a weak jurisprudence and caused tremendous damage.
Why is slaughter regulated ? Should we not ban it applying the speciesism test?
In the spirit of the judgment, has anyone talked to a bull in one of the trucks that go to the slaughterhouses in Kerala? There is a giant corpus of photo and video evidence about the most inhuman practice of cattle transport in India. To anyone with a few brain cells, it is obvious that the PCA Slaughter and Transportation Regulation is completely ignored and is a total failure . We mostly rely on private enforcement – where folks like the Superstar BJP MLA from Hyderabad Mr T Raja Singh and Dawn Williams team in Chennai chase and trap these trucks under great personal danger.
How come the TN Regulation of Jallikattu is struck down but it is considered to okay the PCA Slaughter rules ? This is what the judgment has to say :
P 31 : Clause
(e) to Section 11(3) permits killing of animals as food for mankind, of
course, without inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering, which clause is
also incorporated ‘out of necessity’. Experimenting on animals and eating
their flesh are stated to be two major forms of speciesism in our society.
Over and above, the Legislature, by virtue of Section 28, has favoured
killing of animals in a manner required by the religion of any community
There is a feeling that this talk of speciesism just applies to one type of cultural tradition. Other communities are simply allowed to tie the four legs of an animal and slit its throat while it twitches to death. This is certainly not the doctrine of necessity.
Finally the judgment quotes Ms Temple Grandin – the famous American factory farm slaughterhouse designer.
“The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is
to make it feel afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it is
worse than pain. I always get surprised looks when I say this. If
you gave most people a choice between intense pain and intense fear,
they’d probably pick fear.”
Scroll to the top and look at the picture on the left of buffaloes jam packed enroute to crude slaughter in Kerala – then look at the bull on the right. Which has fear ? Which has majesty and honour intact ?
What next ?
A review petition can be filed stating these facts. The PCA Act can be amended to either specifically elevate and exempt Hindu traditions to the same level as minorities or to bring parity by extending the doctrine of necessity to ban all slaughter. Unlike the UPA the new Modi govt is supposed to be receptive to Hindu interests. We cant blame others anymore.
The vexed issue of Delhi toddlers has apparently been resolved. The Supreme Court has allowed the petitions of 24 Inter State Transferees thereby ending the quarrel in front of it. A few sample media reports sharing the relief of the majority lottery winners.
With the Supreme Court clearing the decks for nursery admissions in the Capital (India Today)
Schools and parents heaved a sigh of relief on Wednesday (Times)
In a big relief to hassled parents, the Supreme Court today cleared the decks (PTI)
You wont read this anywhere, but let me explain why you, even if you are not impacted by Delhi admissions, should sit up like you’ve been jolted by a 440V line. The case may be about pre-school toddlers but it exposes like few others the grand weaknesses of our institutions.
For those new to the issue, this is what happened. The Delhi Govt announced that starting from 2014, all private non-minority schools were to have no autonomy with regards to admissions. They had to follow a system of quotas and lotteries to select their intake. Now, this isnt just a fair sweepstakes like you would expect from a slot machine, rather this is like giving everyone a pair of loaded dice and letting it roll. The govt would assign weights to your kids “worth” depending on whether the child is 1st born, had either parent go to the same school, was a girl child. One of the weights was Inter State Transfer (IST) for kids coming in to Delhi from other states. As crudely intrusive and cringe worthy as this scheme is, the rules were nevertheless notified and lotteries held. After the results came out – they found a large number of IST kids who had won seats due to them being weighted above the general (zero weight, euphemistically called 70-pointers) category. Citing fraud, the Delhi Govt abolished this category and that was upheld by the Delhi High Court. The whole process was stayed pending a decision on what to do with the IST kids who secured seats. Of the 2925 students who won under the category, 24 IST kids appealed to the Supreme Court. This is the background story. Now lets get to what happened yesterday.
The order from the Supreme Court came down yesterday. The Honorable Justices ruled in favour of the 24 children and granted them relief. But –
P21 .. However, it is made clear that this order would only enure to the benefit of those who had approached the Court. It would certainly not extend the benefit to those who had not approached the Court or might have gone in slumber
Page 12 CIVIL APPEAL NO.5379-5380/2014
The Honorable judges had given a hint of this over the last weekend. There were several reports that they were going to cap the relief to this group. Here was some coverage of their thought process.
“You can’t be a fence sitter and wait what medicine was being prescribed and seek to avail it.” Justice Dattu said “relief will be confined to only those who have approached the court till yesterday (Thursday)”.
Source : NIE
From the procedural side, the supporters argue that since this was a private writ and not a Public Interest Litigation write, the SC was correct in restricting the order to those who approached it. That is well and good, but the same process must be made available to all.
When a single person or a group approaches the court with a private writ, it would make enormous sense for the court to immediately discover the following. Does this involve a question that is going to affect the public at large and not just the bunch in front of us ? In this case, that was done, the honorable justices even scolded the Delhi Govt for arbitrarily changing rules of the game after the game was played.
issued in the midstream. In our considered opinion, it was not permissible for the Administration to alter the basis of admission after the admission process had started and further having participated in the selection process the criteria for selection could not have been questioned by unsuccessful participants
Having identified that the source of the injury was arbitrary rule changing and recognizing that there are a thousand others with the exact same injury, it is stupefying that the court would only provide relief to this group. And ban others.
A question of equity
The funny thing is there are a million NGOs in India who talk non stop about equity. The worst form of equity is access to justice. One cannot assume that those who did not approach the Supreme Court were “idle, fence sitting, twiddling their thumbs, lazy, or otherwise deadbeat parents”. A more likely explanation is that they just did not have the awareness, the lawyer circuit connections, or the MONEY. You have to remember that all these people are new to Delhi who are just learning how to get home from work.
Needless to say, the hundreds who are now stranded are aggrieved and are mulling legal options now. A truly tragic situation.
- On review, If the Supreme Court or the lower court grants relief to all, even those without the means to hire expensive lawyers, then we are back to square one.
- If not, a grave injustice of selective relief will take hold as a judicial precedent. Choose your poison? What if a future arbitrary law impacted a million people and a small subset group got a private relief, can we pull the ladder ?
Real minority rights
It is distressing to see the impatient behaviour of the parents who won the lotteries and the sense of entitlement of those with equally dubious “alumni” and “2nd child” points. The hapless IST children who cant claim either of these two gold/silver/bronze govt weights, are seen as villians who are out to delay their own kids school year. This trampling of minority rights happens only because we have been trained to only identify “minority” with Christians and Muslims and not as other kinds of groups.
So whats the real problem ? I have overran the limit for this blog, but the Delhi Nursery situation alarms me to no end. What they are talking about is replacing natural endowments including differential wealth, education, and autonomy with govt assigned rigid weights. Why must all 2nd children be admitted before the first only child is even considered ? Why must this be such rule that if a school violates it they go to jail ? Why alumni points if you are talking socialism ?
The unelected Delhi Administration is driving the school system into a position of immorality. The net result will be philanthropists vacating this space and a drying up of whats left.
Filed under: Lost causes.