This year, the five-day harvest festival of Pongal will be a drab for most Tamilians due to a Supreme Court order banning Jallikattu, the traditional bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu. Politicians and movie stars were up in arms against this SC order banning a sport that has been intertwined in the Tamil culture for almost 4,000 years. Jallikattu is immensely popular in the rural areas of the state during Pongal. A natively reared bull is left free into a field or arena, and groups of people try to tame it with bare hands. PETA has been protesting against the sport since 2004, citing cruelty to animals.
While we debate about the right or wrong about Jallikattu, here's a look at other animal sports from around the world.
Cockfights: Two roosters in a ring called the cock pit, ripping at each other, while people bet on them and cheer. The fight ends either when one of the roosters is dead or nearly dead. Roosters are bred and trained to fight on game farms. The cocks end up with grave injuries because of razor-like blades tied to their legs for combat. Cock fights are popular in India, Mexico, and Latin America.
Dog fights: Popular in the US, Latin America, and some European countries, dog fight is a bloody sport in which two dogs tear away at each other in a pit till one of them dies. Just like fighter cocks, these dogs are conditioned for fighting through the use of drugs and steroids that enhance their body mass and increase aggressiveness. According to PETA, most common dogs used for fighting are Staffordshire terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, American bulldogs, and American pit bull terriers; all of them usually referred to as pit bulls. Before they turn one, puppies bred for fighting are placed in front of other dogs to test their aggression. By the time they are around 15 months, breeders push them into their first fight which is typically a 'roll' that lasts for about 10 minutes. The second part of the fight lasts for almost an hour. At the end of which, survivors are heavily chained again, only to be trained for their first show.
Bull fights: The Spanish version of sport is called corrida de torros or the running of bulls. The match occurs in three phases and each phase begins with a trumpet blow. A team of bull fighters is lead by a matador, who is assisted by picadores (fighters mounted on horseback who use a lance to inflict injury on the bull's neck muscle), banderilleros (flagmen), and, mozo de espada (sword servant). The performance opens with the matador stepping into the ring, doing an opening performance for the audience and trying to provoke the bull. The picadores too enter the ring on horseback and stab on the bull's neck while it tries to attack the horse. In the next phase, banderilleros attempt to plant sharp stick-like structures into the bull's shoulders to further weaken the bull. In the third phase, the matador re-enters the ring with a red cape and he has 15 minutes to kill the bull by stabbing and puncturing its spinal cord.
Rodeo riding: This is yet another competitive event from Spain. What once evolved as a practice to test skills of cowboys, this today is a highly competitive event. This involves a participant riding a horse that attempts to throw or buck off the rider. Rodeo riding also uses calves and bulldogs as part of events like tie-down roping, calf roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing. Often, electric rods and bucking straps are used to irritate and provoke animals in rodeo. Bucking horses have also been found to develop back injuries from the repeated pounding from the cowboys.