Before anything else, let me say I am not a fan of the game or a fan of the ban.
I was hiding and trying not to write about this, but I can’t take it anymore and it has to get out somewhere right? People who know me know that information overload can lead to anxiety for me. Because every Tom, Dick and Harry seem to have an opinion on this and I have my opinion too and if I share mine I am called an anti-national, anti-Tamil, etc so I have given up talking on social media about this. Me saying things as is seem to have created problems in at least two different groups where they called me argumentative and adamant and condescending. Well, I might as well stick to writing here then.
A few points… first here is a discussion I had with my children, would clear certain things, hopefully.
We have spent Pongal the last few years in Kovilpatti and Tirunelveli and my kids were missing that. My son was complaining that he wasn’t getting “karumbu” (sugarcane) and how he was missing eating “kootu curry with Pongal and vadai” and his visit to Vaduganpatti (our village) and the bath in the pump set!
We spoke about what we did for Pongal and this has been going on for the past few days and then they have been seeing the Jallikattu posts so as usual, the question came as to what it is and what I think about it. I always tell them that I could be biased and they need to read up more and learn apart from what I tell them too.
I started talking about all the four days of Pongal and how my grandmother had cows and how bulls were used for farming and anyone that did not own bulls had to go to someone who had bulls and request for one. The bull there was “specialist equipment” and everyone needed to fix appointments with the bull owner. This was the days before the tractor. In villages where we were land owners, this was quite common. Of course, we had a discussion about how bulls in cities get slaughtered because they are no practical use these days. And it was interesting as the conversation went off to female infanticide for a bit before coming back on track.
So my kids asked if I had ever been to Tirunelveli during Pongal before and my answer was yes and if I had ever seen Jallikattu and my answer was no. Very honest reply. They asked me if my paati had bulls would she have sent her bulls to Jallikattu. My answer again was no. For the question as to why -the answer was simple, two things, one people in Tirunelveli did not play Jallikattu and people from lower castes weren’t allowed to participate in Jallikattu.
Kids: So, that means Jallikattu is not a sport for all Tamilians?
Me: Well, No, Jallikatu was not celebrated in all the nooks and corners of Tamil Nadu and even where it was celebrated it wasn’t allowed for everyone to celebrate. See Jallikattu was celebrated in select villages in Madurai, Trichy and maybe Tanjore districts, again not all of the villages here participated.
Kids: Why didn’t the Dalits or other castes that weren’t allowed to protest against all this?
Me: Because we had better things to do and fight for.
Kids: Do you support jallikattu?
Me: Yes and no. Also banning anything is oppression. Like we don’t ban screen time at home but we don’t sit in front of it all the time. I think we should be allowed to do it as it is a part of the culture and tradition and that would be the only reason. as I see a lot of culture being taken away from us. We have lost our green banana and “kamala” orange! While it is great that we get broccoli and blueberries in Tirunelveli, I am not happy to see a lot of traditional veggies take a back seat.
Kids: So who is PETA?
Me: They are animal rights activists.
Kids: So they fight for animals?
Kids: So they are vegans? (We were vegans for a long time and they know that it means beyond not eating animal products)
Kids: are they fighting against meat-eating in India too?
Me: No, not that I know of. They have got a ban on cock-fighting in Assam, bull racing in Maharashtra and jallikattu in TamilNadu.
Kids: Why did the Maharashtrians or Assamese not fight for their rights?
Me: I don’t know.
Kids: So are they really not interested in animals if they are not fighting against silk sarees, animal breeding for sale, show jumping, meat eating, leather industry, etc
Me: Good question, they should be fighting for all that too, but I don’t see signs of it. Also, that affects a lot of people and it might also hit economy. (We managed to check up on PETA and we read up on them and realised that they kill animals in their shelter if they are not adopted by a certain period, these are perfectly normal young animals which have a long time to live.)
Kids: what is economy?
Me: Well to put it in simple terms, for the time being, let us say it is all about money…. you know when someone stops eating animals then it affects the people who breed animals for meat, so on and so forth
Kids: so that means PETA is about money and not about animal care in the end?
Me: I am really not sure about this and can’t answer it. Put PETA does get a lot of donations, not sure where the money goes to.
Kids: So how did PETA get to ban jallikattu
Me: well, PETA didn’t ban it, they are an NGO and they can’t do it. The first case that was filed was by a parent who lost their son in a Jallikattu and he was in the audience. Later on other animal welfare organisations like PETA. Animal Welfare Board, etc joined in. So the ban was by Supreme court
Kids: Why would the Supreme Court do it just like that?
Me: (in my mind I was thinking as to who paid whom to get this done). They did see a lot of videos that were shown in court about jallikattu but I am not sure if the other side got to talk about their side of the story.
Kids: And the Supreme Court decided on it just like that? Did they check the background? Like formula companies saying breastfeeding is not the best and people believing it? (I realise me being on the breastfeeding forum 24×7 has got my children to view things differently)
Me: I am sure they have their reasons for doing what they did.
Kids: ok, back to jallikattu, do you think the animals are ill-treated?
Me: It is not the best thing to do, but it is for a few minutes, animals are not as injured as humans, and humans do get killed sometimes.
Kids: Why don’t they make rules and stick to it so humans and animals don’t get injured
Me: good question. I think there are some rules already and people seem to stick to it
Kids: back to the question from the video, what is A1/A2?
Me: (looking at my son) remember when you were a baby and was diagnosed with allergies, our homeopath said something like you can give the child milk from here, organic cow, local breed and that will not affect. Probably that is what she meant, but unfortunately, you were allergic to both milk. Basically, there is this theory – I am yet to read unbiased, peer-reviewed research papers on it – that our cows have a healthy casein which is A2 and the other cows have A1 and they think A2 is good for health. If their theory is right the it should be a problem for Irish, Italians and all Europeans alike. But we do know Italians are lot more healthy and live up to a hundred or at least eighties and nineties without any problem. So seriously not sure what this A1/A2 is all about.
Kids: So how does jallikattu help?
Me: They say if there is no jallikattu there is no reason to have bulls and then we will ultimately be using artificial insemination to breed cows and that will be from all A1.
Kids: if we know this A2 is good, can we not save the bulls without the jallikattu?
Me: yes, we could.
Kids: Then why the fight? And what about breeds becoming extinct? Between the two videos, the number of extinct and total number of breeds seem to be varying
Me: yes, the numbers are varying but the total number of breeds are reducing by the day or that is what they say. Also, can’t blame PETA for bringing in A2 cows, Operation flood nearly 40 years ago brought in Jerseys. All the A1/A2 research was supposedly done during early 2000 and it was done in good faith. I remember my own grandmother talking about jersey pasu!
Kids: so where does jallikattu picture in all this
Me: I am not so sure myself, though I do know that the bull that wins gets to breed with the cows.
Kids: how long has jallikattu been banned?
Me: effective from 2014
Kids: you mean to say that in two years all these breeds have become extinct?
Kids: then why are they adding this to jallikattu too
Me: I don’t know, people are just adding things randomly to get support from everyone I suppose
Kids: would you join the protest? what do you think of this?
Me: Yes and No. I am glad to see that there is a protest for what people believe in. I am happy that things are changing and it’s not violent, though paati today got stuck in Kovilpatti because trains were not running. I will be glad to join in if the protest was for something I strongly believe in and I understand all the underlying facts.
Here is the fact
They will say save the breed – FACT is – 130 native cattle breeds have gone extinct…in EUROPE!
(Even if you take pre-1947 India boundaries – indigenous breeds are nowhere near the 130 figure.)
2 breeds that have gone extinct are from Bangladesh
6/37 indigenous breeds of cattle are in Tamil Nadu.
The supposedly extinct Alambadi breed is actually more than the Bargur breed (see below)
Less than 2% of India’s indigenous cattle population is in Tamil Nadu
It IS true that indigenous cattle population has sharply declined in the last census. Draught animals have made way for tractors. Information needs to be disseminated, not fudged figures
So no breed has gone to extinct yet!
A good post from Aparna – for all those who want to know how to save cows and bulls, read this.
IT IS A MATTER OF “AGRI”CULTURE
As the Jallikattu controversy rages on and the crowds swell along the shores of the Marina in Chennai; I wanted to share my few thoughts on a matter that has already been much written about. These thoughts may be relevant to the dialogue because I work with indigenous cattle preservation and my vocation is farming.
There was a time when animals, particularly cattle were the heart of every agricultural unit. They were the generators of all the manure for the fields and the dairy products all of which contributed immensely to sustainability. Even after their death they gave their leather and horns for saddles, sandals and horn manure. They were worshipped because they were so useful and were integral to agrarian life.
Today the tractor and urea in every farm has replaced animals and all the animals have gone to factory farms where they stand in assembly line from morning to night and wait for a very slow agonising release from a very unremarkable life.
No one knows the names of these fast vanishing indigenous breeds of cattle anymore and do they care? Traditional cowshed management practices are dead and forgotten and ayurvedic medicine systems to care for them have given way to the promotion of a pharmaceutical industry that pumps in horrid vaccines and antibiotics hitherto unheard of.
No one grows the crops that once meant more fodder for them, those traditional Millet’s that gave food and fodder; Bajra, Jowar, Kangini, Kodo, Sama, Mandua…! They are just multigrain sold in a urban organic stores for the upper class now. No one cares that we mono crop now instead of multi crop, grow more cash crops instead of food crops and worry about yield instead of soil and milch instead of mulch.
No one cares that agriculture is dying as a vocation. Farmers are starving (a terrible oxymoron of sorts), indigenous seeds are vanishing and traditional practices are all but extinct. Multi-cropping, intercropping, companion planting and crop rotation are greek and Latin to the modern crop of farmers who are all children of the green revolution. Farmers children don’t want to do agriculture anymore and feel ashamed to say they work with soil. They are all in cities, many in menial jobs earning a paltry sum while their lands lie waiting or are being grabbed bit by bit by developers and land sharks.
While our lands wait and our farmers starve, the Government is leasing land in Brazil and Mozambique to grow food. More and more subsidies and loans are being offered to farmers as we speak to buy chemicals and grow food and destroy precious top soil. The companies which make chemicals and fertilisers also make the medicines for cancer.
Beautiful cows with sad eyes languish in dark, damp dairies giving birth again and again until they are exhausted and then are towed away to be eaten. They cannot nurture their calves or feed them. They watch their babies starve to death and have their male calves snatched from them for slaughter. The tiny calves who could become the sturdy beautiful bulls we all are fighting for today are thrown into trucks with their legs broken for an early grave. All so that our human babies could be nourished with the milk and we may make more sweets, shakes and ice creams than we will ever need; much of which is thrown and wasted. What a tragedy. When cow slaughter is banned, the buffaloes who are also indigenous cattle take the brunt. The Government has now decided to export buffalo meat to China. I wish even just a part of that swelling crowd by the Marina would protest this.
Those cattle that are not in factories are in Gaushalas that run unsustainably on crores of rupees that come by way of donations. These funds are often misused while hundreds of cows and bulls wait without proper food, water, sanitation and medical facilities. Above all they have no freedom. Many Gaushala are nothing but dairies. The animals stand in their own refuse amidst a cloud of flies and mosquitoes. The precious dung in the meantime lie in tall large heaps with no takers. No one visits them, volunteers or helps contribute to their welfare.
Those who advocate jallikattu in the name of tradition and all those who feel that their entire existence hinges on a sport that has become virtually irrelevant in an agrarian context must know that the bull is already on it’s last legs. Jallikattu alone is not going to save the species. Besides, is that all we have to offer to this wonderful majestic animal today, who is supposed to be intrinsic to our heritage and culture; a mere trial by fire?
On the other hand, to ban jallikattu is just as irrelevant because the bull will still go for slaughter and become extinct. A court order banning jallikattu without appropriate directions to protect it means its sure death. Thus for the bull, both jallikattu and its ban is to be between the devil and the deep sea.
The solution to protect the bull and its cultural identity, is intrinsically linked to agriculture not jallikattu. We need to revisit our traditional agrarian systems, value dung over milk and bring our cattle back into our farms. We need to demechanize agriculture in small holdings and encourage farmers to adopt practices that have a low carbon footprint. Mechanisation makes the life of a farmer easy but it has also made farming communities lazy. Less work has meant a life of idleness and consequent rise of crime and gang wars in rural areas. We have contaminated soil, water and air and the very food we eat by making cattle irrelevant to a farm.
At our farm Beejom, we practice all this and more with incredible results. We are presently protecting twelve breeds of both draught and milch indigenous cattle from across india and are in the process of bringing in more breeds that are on the verge of extinction. We are a dung farm and have a project called Dung Ho!!! It celebrates the role of dung in producing clean food and adding sustainability to a farm with a zero carbon footprint. The yields are amazing and our whole farm is off the grid thanks to our cattle. We save indigenous seeds, use cow dung to make biogas, solar to make electricity and use indigenous earth worms and bees for greater fertility and pollination. Therefore, the animals run the farm and we are merely facilitators. On our farm, the bulls save us, we don’t save them. They are generators and producers, not receivers of charity. They pull the carts and run the sugarcane, grain and oil chakkis. They plough our lands gently too. We use their dung to make fertilisers, pest repellants, dhoop, agarbathi, pots, logs and vermicompost. We grow Millet’s through the year so that we may get healthy grain and they can have clean fodder. We make them graze on our lands so that the soil can heal and become more fertile. For all this they are rewarded with a free range life, clean water and food, love and care and above all a life of immense dignity. All this is because, this is a matter of tradition and culture. This is how we lived and farmed before, gently and sustainably respecting our soil, land, air, flora and fauna.
I wish we would congregate just like this to protest against the dog killings in kerala, the manner in which animals are taken for slaughter every day and the way slaughter houses function. I wish we were all just as outraged at all the factory farms and the thousands of abandoned animals in every shelter in the city. Why doesn’t it anger us when the food we eat is contaminated? Why does no one bother about farmers suicides and raise their voice protests against the companies that sell unregulated pesticides and fertilisers? Do we ever get emotional about our polluted dying rivers, vanishing water bodies, forests and wildlife? This is all a matter of tradition and culture too.
Therefore, before we make a decision to be for or against jallikattu and make a race to “protect” our culture, we need to know our agriculture. Most of the farmers who are defending this may be chemical farmers who have no real use for the bulls on their farms. The matter should be taken out of the political arena and all necessary steps should be taken by the legislature, executive and judiciary to protect our indigenous animals from extinction by setting up sanctuaries to preserve the breed and model farms for people to replicate. Most of those who are out on the Marina in Chennai today, even if well meaning are out to defend a tradition they know little about. Little do they know that all it would take to protect a bull is a pile of bull shit. The rest is all”bull”!!!!
I have a few things to say about the protest…
1. Really happy that people stood up to fight for something. I am proud of the crowd!
2. I would have been happier if they had a leader and had a clear idea of what they were fighting for, most of them did not even know anything about Jallikattu or the breed extinction or A1/A2 milk, all the information they got was from social media and they were talking about it. No in-depth knowledge about anything and a protest will not work just because of a crowd.
3. To all those who thought that it was a peaceful protest, agree there was no violence but all the slogan shouting where they were insulting politicians was uncalled for. Stick to you what you are protesting for – for this they have to know what they were fighting for.
4. I am really happy that women and children were treated well but why the cyber bullying of women who supported PETA? We are not going to win anything by being mean. And everyone has the right to say their opinion, just like you do.
5. Because there was no leader and no knowledge, they didn’t know when to stop and now all hell has broken loose.
6. I would say give it all a thought. Your protest would not have happened if politicians had not decided to let you (maybe for their political gain) and be wary of anything and everything. Think when it is right to start, and know when it is right to stop.
Being outside Chennai/India and being on all kinds of forums, I realise how much is happening around the world other than Jallikattu which I would have missed if I stuck to just Chennai news.
– Trump took over from Obama
– Women all around the world went on a Anti Trump march
– There was even a train derailment in Andhra were a good few people were killed
– There was a massive fire in Mumbai today
By the way I was bullied too by a few people for stating facts. And as I said I am not a fan of the ban or a fan of the game.
I can go on and on but I am going to stop for now.