Supporters of “Jallikattu” in India, where a scared — not “sacred” as proponents claim, but scared — bull is chased by a lot of people to forcibly hang on to him, have been trying to contact me to help them because PETA India has been fighting it.
They have me confused with someone else. I am a proponent of animal rights, not a defender of harm. In fact, because I believe in the rights of animals, I fight PETA. I do not criticize PETA because of what they are thought to stand for (animal rights), but precisely because they do not. I criticize them because they:
- kill or cause to be killed 98% of the animals they take in, including healthy puppies and kittens;
- advocate that they be killed by others (including community cats and pit bulls);
- fight shelter reform, and, among other anti-animal positions;
- defend abusive shelters; and,
- “do not advocate ‘right to life’ for animals” (as Ingrid Newkirk herself has written)
If they actually believed in animal rights, including the fundamental right to life as I do, I would support them.
Indeed, at one time when I naively thought they did, I actually did support them. In the early 1990s, I was living in Wheaton, Maryland, a stone’s throw from PETA headquarters, before they relocated to Norfolk, Virginia. Because I love animals, am vegan, and did not want to see them killed, exploited, or abused, I became a PETA volunteer. And then one day, my roommate, a former PETA employee, found a dog in need of a home. We called him Ray. I asked her why we didn’t just take Ray to PETA. Surely, PETA, with its millions of dollars and millions of animal loving members, would find him a home. But she said no, that was a very bad idea, because PETA would just kill him. That is when I did what anyone who truly loves animals would have done, I walked away from them. It is what another PETA intern also did when he saw puppies and kittens in the kill room. He quit in disgust.
So those trying to defend Jallikattu are contacting the wrong person. Jallikattu is not a sport. And there’s nothing “sacred” about it as a “tradition.” A quick Google search will find plenty of documented abuse above and beyond the cruelty associated with having “sport” at the physical and psychological expense of an animal. And given that I don’t care at all about American “traditions” which perpetuate or attempt to justify cruelty — like butchering 46 million turkeys for Thanksgiving — why should I give a damn about anyone else’s so-called traditions?
Moreover, throughout history, “tradition” — as here — has been the rallying cry of the oppressor in response to those working to safeguard the rights of the oppressed. Had the people who have fought to make our world a better place laid down their cause in obedience to this admonition, we would still have slavery, women wouldn’t have the vote, children would still be working in factories, disabled people wouldn’t have access to public buildings, and people would not have equality to marry the person that they love.
Finally, PETA India did not have a hand in banning the practice. It is illegal because it violates the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960. And it was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court after the Animal Welfare Board of India litigated the matter on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment, after finding abuse of bulls during Jallikattu. PETA is not their enemy here. Decency, compassion, modernity, and law are.
So those who support this cruelty can stop emailing me. They can stop contacting me through social media. They can stop using my work to defend cruelty.
My work against PETA has one purpose and one purpose only: protect animals. And because I stand with the animals and because I was asked, here’s my opinion: Jallikattu is cruelty. It was rightly banned. And it should stay that way.
The Washington Post notes that the barbaric practice has begun again as of yesterday. In addition to abusing bulls, two people were killed.
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