After years of struggle to outlaw modern bullfighting in India, animal rights activists finally saw the practice sanctioned in 2015. But thanks to a statement from a federal government agency, the ban has been lifted—and bullfighting will recommence at the end of the month.
India’s Ministry of Environment issued a set of guidelines for bull taming, or Jallikattu, in apparent defiance of a ruling by India’s supreme court that effectively banned the event. It found that bulls were “severely harmed” by the practice.
Jallikattu takes place during the centuries-old Pongal festival in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. After the animal is released from its pen, men jump on the bull and must hold on for a minimum of 15 meters, or three jumps by the bull, to win the prizes attached to the horns, the BBC reports.
Under the new guidelines, the bull must be “tamed” within a short distance from where it’s released to help curb the chaos that has ensued when bulls have been let loose among the spectators. Hundreds of people have been trampled or mauled, according to the BBC. The new rules also state that the event will be monitored by an animal welfare board to ensure the bulls do not unduly suffer, Indian outlet Niti Central reports.
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Unlike Spanish bullfighting, the animals are not slaughtered after the event, but critics say the bulls are locked in small pens, battered by dozens of competitors, and often given alcohol.
Supporters of Jallikattu say it is an integral part of India’s cultural heritage, but the Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA both vowed to challenge the ministry’s new guidelines. The 2014 supreme court ruling stated that the rules pertaining to Jallikattu can’t be changed without permission from the Animal Welfare Board.
“Lifting the protection against cruelty that was afforded to bulls is a black mark on our nation, which has always been looked up to by people around the world for our cultural reverence for animals,” Poorva Joshipura, CEO of PETA India, told the Times of India. “India will now be considered archaic and backward as sensibilities around the world are changing in favor of animal protection.”