Five gored to death at Indian bull-taming religious festival

in this photograph taken on January 15, 2018, Indian participants try to control a bull during the annual 'Jallikattu' bulltaming festival in the village of Palamedu on the outskirts of Madurai.
Activists say the sport puts the players and the animals at risk


“At least five men in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu have been gored to death while watching a bull-taming contest known as Jallikattu [as part of the religious festival Maattu Pongal]

The men were spectators at events held since Sunday. The controversial sport is making a comeback after a ban.

It was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014 on grounds of animal cruelty. But the government lifted the ban in 2017.

The sport sees thousands of men in the state chase bulls to grab prizes tied to their specially-sharpened horns.

Officials said the latest death came at an event in Pudukottai district on Wednesday. At least 60 others have also suffered injuries.

Last year the government decided to allow the sport, which traditionally takes place in January, after the state witnessed widespread protests.

This decision paved the way for the sport to be conducted across the state this year.

Over the years, scores of people have been gored or trampled to death in the contests.

Hundreds, including spectators, have been injured.

Animal rights activists say the spectacle causes unnecessary stress to the bulls who are released into a crowd and forced to fend off people trying to ride them.

The government, however, said the sport was important for the “survival and well-being of the native breed of bulls and preserving cultural traditions”.

What is Jallikattu?

Pandian Ranjith tames a bull
  • Jallikattu, more than 2,000 years old, is considered to be one of the oldest sports still practised in the modern era.
  • The bull is released from the pen and bullfighters are supposed to hold on to the animal’s hump for about 15-20 metres or three jumps of the bull to win the prize. If no one succeeds, the bull wins.
  • During the event, hundreds of men will run along with the bull, hold on to its hump and pluck away bundles of money or gold tied to its specially sharpened horns.
  • Unlike bullfighting in Spain, in Jallikattu the bull is not killed and the contestants are not supposed to use any weapons. The idea is to dominate and tame the animals.
  • In recent years animal advocacy groups have pointed to tactics like tail-pulling as being cruel. The Supreme Court said that the use of bulls in the sport “severely harmed” the animals and was an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
  • Over the years, scores of people have been gored or trampled to death in the contests. Hundreds, including spectators, have been injured.”

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