PETA not taking legal action in US against bullriding sport similar to jallikattu

New York, Jan 5 (IANS) People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which petitioned the Indian Supreme Court to stop jallikattu, is not taking similar legal action against bullriding, a sport with similarities to the Tamil event.

Three days of bullriding organised by Professional Bullriders started on Friday at the Madison Square Garden here without a legal challenge or active protest from PETA in contrast to its actions in India against jallikattu.

While people run after a bull and try to hold on to its hump in jallikattu, in bullriding a person gets on it and tries to hold on to it while the animal tries to throw off the rider.

Unlike in Tamil Nadu, where jallikattu is a traditional cultural event held around the Pongal annual harvest festival, bullriding is a commercial sports activity backed by major US companies and even the US government's Border Patrol. Cheapest tickets for the Madison Square Garden event cost $59.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement to IANS: "Events like those held by the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) are rare in today's civilised society and despised by the vast majority of people all over the world."

"PETA US, which is a separate entity from PETA India, will protest this cruel spectacle and expects it to go the way of bullfights, which have been banned in more than 100 cities in Spain as a direct result of action by PETA and its affiliates," she added.

PETA did not respond to a question from IANS why it was not taking legal action against bullriding as it has in India.

Despite Newkirk's claim that events like PBR's "are rare in today's civilised society," 81 bullriding events are being organised across the US this year by the PBR alone and some are also to be televised by CBS, a major national network.

The bloody sport of bullfighting, in which the animals are killed unlike in either jalliattu or bullriding, continues to be held in Spain where a constitutional court overturned Catalonia province's ban in 2016.

A global bullriding championship is scheduled to be held next month in the US with teams from the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico participating.

PBR's list of partners include automobile manufacturer Ford, construction equipment maker Caterpillar, Wrangler jeans company, and Jack Daniels whiskey distiller.

It also lists the US government's Border Patrol as a partner.

Some of the PBR events make a show of patriotism with spectators waving American flags, which are also paraded in the arenas, and feature military bands.

The Madison Square Garden, which seats more than 18,000 spectators and bills itself as "The World's Most Famous Arena," hosts sporting events, concerts and political events. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's a rally for Indians was held there during his 2014 events.

India's Supreme Court banned jallikattu in 2014 in response to a case spearheaded by PETA alleging the event inflicted cruelty on bulls.

After protests in 2017 in Tamil Nadu against the ban on the centuries-old cultural event, the laws on preventing cruelty to animals were amended to allow limited jallkattu events with strict regulations.

PETA and other organisations have filed another appeal to the Supreme Court for a total ban on jallikattu and a constitutional bench is to consider whether Tamil Nadu can retain the event as a "cultural right."

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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