WHILE THE Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)’s guidelines for conducting bull-taming sport jallikattu this year call for the animals to be subjected to nicotine and cocaine tests before they are deemed fit to participate, organisers say they are not sure how the tests will be carried out.
According to the organisers, previously the test to determine whether a bull had been made to consume alcohol to enhance performance could be done easily through a breathalyser, but the new tests under these guidelines have left most of them at their wits’ end.
The AWBI’s guidelines on “conduct of jallikattu event” calls for additional tests, apart from tests to ensure that the bulls have not been administered performance-enhancement drugs. “The animal selected should also be put to nicotine test, cocaine test before a certificate of suitability of the bulls to participate in the event is issued by the authorities,” the guidelines state.
A popular sport in Tamil Nadu, jallikattu is organised to coincide with the harvest festival Pongal. Organisers say each bull participates in at least 10 to 15 events in a season, which runs from January to May. Last year, after the ban was lifted, at least 100 events were held across the state.
The Board’s guidelines also call for “compulsory” one-day insurance for the event: “During the event, one-day insurance, which is already in practice, should be made compulsory for the bulls, bullocks, bull owners [and] participants.”
AWBI chairman S P Gupta told The Indian Express that bulls will have to be insured during this jallikattu season, and that inspection teams from the Board will be present at all events.
Himakiran, a member of the Safe Food Alliance in Tamil Nadu who is involved in cattle research, said there was no practice earlier to insure bulls that took part in the sport. “Earlier, registrations took place with the AWBI, and Rs 500 was collected as demand draft, along with four photographs of the bull from each angle. A health certificate issued by a veterinarian, and an identity proof of the handler (were required),” Himakiran said. According to him, the decision on one-day insurance was taken by event organisers for participants as bulk insurance. “Each bull participates in at least 15 events through the season, and the costs will be prohibitive if the guidelines require a one-day insurance each time.”
Himakiran said that although the guidelines call for insurance policy for “bull owners”, the person accompanying the bull to the venue may not necessarily be the animal’s owner.
Some organisers said they buy a bulk insurance policy each season. P Rajasekaran, president of the Madurai-based Jallikattu Peravai Association, said events organised by his association is covered by a bulk insurance policy offered by a public sector general insurance company. “It is a very good thing to get insurance but it will be difficult to get a one-day insurance policy for each bull since a lot of time and effort will be spent on paperwork,” he said.
The AWBI guidelines also state that the events should be videographed, and that calves below the age of three and above 15 years won’t be eligible to participate. “The vadivasal (entrance) should be 12×15 feet,” the guideline states. It states that an “exclusive dress for the participation can also be thought of both for the sake of identification and to provide a charm to the heroic game.”