The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has called for a ban on ‘fox jallikattu’ events in Tamil Nadu, which the animal rights organisation says is a practice rampant in Salem district around Pongal. An RTI response from the Tamil Nadu government has revealed that fox jallikattu, also known as vanga nari jallikattu to tame foxes, is not, in fact, part of the state's 'culture and tradition.'
PETA India has written to the Chief Wildlife Warden of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department urging him to take immediate action to stop the fox jallikattu events, stating that it is a direct violation of both the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WPA), and The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The organisation has called for ‘strict penal action against the organisers and participants.’
"It's unacceptable in a civilised society for terrified foxes to be forced to run for their lives amidst a raucous crowd," said PETA India Chief Advocacy Officer Prakash Sasha in a statement to the press. "PETA India is calling on authorities to enforce the law, prevent these events from taking place, and hold all perpetrators accountable for subjecting protected foxes to this notoriously cruel spectacle," he said.
PETA’s statement comes after an RTI response to the organisation from the Tamil Nadu Forest Department revealed that the ‘Tamil Nadu government does not consider fox jallikattu a part of the state's culture and tradition.’ This, in contrast to regular jallikattu, conducted with bulls. In 2017, following a massive protest across Tamil Nadu, the banned bull-taming sport was legitimized through an ordinance by the Tamil Nadu government. The PCA Act was amended for the state on the grounds that jallikattu plays a vital role in preserving and promoting the culture and tradition in large parts of the state.
Another RTI response from the state government showed that between 2014 to 2018, the Forest Department in Salem “only collected compound fees from offenders who conducted such illegal events”. The animal rights body has alleged that the government deliberately avoided booking offenders under Section 51 of the WPA to face a court trial and potentially be subject to imprisonment and a fine.
“[PETA] notes that foxes used for fox jallikattu, or "vanga nari jallikattu", are captured in the wild using traps. Their hind legs are tied with rope, their mouths are gagged to prevent them from biting, and they are chased through the village as they try desperately to escape,” said the organisation.
It also pointed out that Indian foxes and red foxes are protected under Part II of Schedule II of the WPA. “Section 9 of the Act prohibits the hunting of foxes, and Section 2(16) defines the term "hunting" as including not only killing or poisoning a wild animal but also capturing, coursing, snaring, trapping, driving, or baiting a wild or captive animal or attempting to do so. Section 51 details the penalties for contravention of the Act's provisions, and an offence committed in relation to an animal specified in Part II of Schedule II is punishable with imprisonment for a term of three to seven years as well as a minimum fine of Rs 10,000. In the case of a subsequent offence, the term of imprisonment is between three and seven years, in addition to a minimum fine of Rs 25,000,” it said.