On our social media timelines, one of the most popular reactions to ban on jallikattu by the Supreme Court has been –why not ban lamb slaughter on Bakrid, is that not cruelty?
Let’s set aside arguments like minority rights and ‘way of life’ which seem hypocritical at best. What does the law say, and what is the rationale behind allowing one and not the other?
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is the governing legislation when it comes to animal rights. The act gets into much detail on animal cruelty, and what’s allowed and what’s not. But there is a catch. Section 28 of the act says, “Saving as respects manner of killing prescribed by religion: Nothing contained in this Act shall render it an offence to kill any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community.”Killing animals as a part of any religious practice is protected under the act.
So one of the ways out of the ban being suggested by lawyers and activists is declaring Pongal a religious festival, and showing that jallikattu is an intrinsic part of the religious festival. Then by virtue of Section 28 of PCA, the sport can be allowed to happen, some argue.
Nope, that will not work.
Look closely, the exemption for religious events is for “killing” animals, not torturing or exhibiting them, whatever the case may be.
Yes, that’s right. As a part of a religious festival, you can kill an animal but not torture it, that’s Indian law. So even if Pongal is declared a Hindu religious festival, jallikattu cannot be allowed.
There have been several other ways which have been suggested. The Union government says that the state can pass an ordinance by declaring the sport a “fair” or an “exhibition” which falls under the State List of the Seventh Schedule. But legal experts believe that this will not go past the SC because the cruelty argument will still hold.
It is also being suggested that the Centre could remove “bulls” from the list of “performing animals” for which laws have been prescribed, and based on which SC declared the sport illegal. But that alone would not suffice, say experts. The SC has said that the sport is inherently cruel, irrespective of whether it is on the list of performing animals or not.
Under section 27 of the PCA, two other exemptions have been listed – training of animals for police or military purposes and exhibition of animals for educational or scientific purposes. Lawyers suggest amendment to the acy by adding another exemption for exhibition for traditional and culture, thereby allowing jallikattu.
But that won’t settle it either, for the SC has said in its 2014 judgment, “Even the ancient culture and tradition do not support the conduct of Jallikattu or Bullock cart race, in the form in which they are being conducted at present. Welfare and the well-being of the bull is Tamil culture and tradition, they do not approve of infliction of any pain or suffering on the bulls.”
If jallikattu has to happen, then there is perhaps only one way out, and that’s a two pronged strategy. First, the Centre has to remove “bulls” from the list of performing animals, and then jallikattu supporters have to demonstrate in court that the event can happen without torture and cruelty. The matter will have to get back to the court again, and no executive action alone can permanently allow it. There seems to be no other way out, and this is not a short process.