This week, the state of Tamil Nadu in South India is celebrating its annual harvest festival without a traditional and gruesome spectacle: Jallikattu, an event in which men hang by the humps of bulls, traumatizing the animals by pushing and pulling at them and causing them injury, in a show of “manliness.” This is another signature victory for the team at Humane Society International/India, and it caps a recent streak of successful court victories that will save animals ranging from bulls to roosters to songbirds.
Every day, HSI extends the reach of The HSUS and battles animal abuse in dozens of countries across the globe. Some practices are rooted deeply in tradition and religion, or are a core component of festivals, which makes these activities difficult to uproot or dislodge. But we take them on, big or small, when animal lives are at risk. We have made significant headway in ending some of the greatest abuses, like putting a stop to the killing at the religious Gadhimai festival in Nepal where half a million animals were slaughtered every five years, and slowly but surely working to end the commercial trade and consumption of dogs in some Asian countries.
The fight against Jallikattu in India was won in 2014, when the Supreme Court banned the event as violating the nation’s anti-cruelty laws, but this year the central government attempted to reinstate it, citing its traditional significance. HSI/India, led by N.G. Jayasimha, sprang into action, petitioning the Supreme Court with six others to reinstate the ban. Their appeal succeeded just before the start of the festival, sparing hundreds of bulls agonizing injuries and trauma.
In the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where fighting roosters is a popular sport during the harvest festival, HSI/India won a long-fought battle against an attempt to lift a Supreme Court ban on cockfighting. In neighboring Telangana, our team succeeded in securing a ban on the use of nylon strings coated with glass during kite-flying contests which are popular during the celebration. The sharp strings pose a great risk to birds who often get fatally injured by the string left behind on trees or poles after the festival is over.
It may be hard to visualize the use of songbirds in fights similar to cockfights, but in the northeast Indian state of Assam, during the festival of Bihu, tiny songbirds called Bulbuls are intoxicated, starved, and then made to fight for an audience. HSI India succeeded in getting the state’s high court to stay an earlier order lifting a ban on these fights. This victory in Assam follows one last year when HSI got a ban implemented against buffalo fights in the state.
I’m immensely proud of the work of our HSI/India team and their tenacity in protecting every life, great or small. Thanks to their work, just this week hundreds of animals have been spared serious injury and death. It’s a reason to celebrate.