India's Supreme Court bans bull fighting at harvest festival

NEW DELHI -- India's Supreme Court on Tuesday banned this year's bull fighting ritual at a harvest festival in southern India following angry protests from activists who say the sport amounts to animal torture.

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The court also asked the Environment Ministry to respond to petitions from several animal rights groups that have campaigned to have the sport of Jallikattu permanently outlawed.

Jallikattu takes place in Tamil Nadu state during the harvest festival of Pongal, which falls this year on Friday. Thousands of men chase the bulls to get prizes tied to their horns. Animal rights groups say the animals are terrified and are often deliberately disoriented with alcohol, and are wounded with knives and sticks as they are dragged to the ground.

The Supreme Court banned the sport in 2014, but the Environment Ministry issued an order allowing it this year. Activists say the government tried to subvert the court ban because the sport evokes deep emotions in Tamil Nadu and the state is holding elections this year. Any political group seen as opposed to the sport is likely to face an electoral backlash.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals welcomed the court's order and called it "a partial victory."

Supporters say Jallikattu is more than 2,000 years old and is a deep-rooted part of Tamil Nadu's celebration of the harvest festival.

"A part of my heritage has been taken away from me," Khusboo Sunder, a former actress and a member of the Congress party, told reporters.

Sunder said it was not true that the bulls were subjected to torture.

Over the past few years, India's courts have come to the rescue of several other animals. Earlier this year, elephant polo in the western state of Rajasthan was banned. Last year, the Supreme Court banned cockfighting and dog fights across the country, and bullock cart races in rural Maharashtra.

In India's business capital of Mumbai, a court has ordered the city's iconic horse drawn carriages to be phased out by June 2016.


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