x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Bid to bring back bullfights in Goa knifed by Indian government

India's environment ministry has added bulls to a list of animals in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, which outlaws their use for entertainment.

Animal rights campaigners have welcomed an Indian government ruling that has sunk efforts to revive local-style bullfights in the state of Goa.

The country's environment ministry has added bulls to a list of animals in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, which outlaws their use for entertainment.

The list already includes bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions. The chairman of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, Chinny Krishna, said the ruling, brought in last month, means bulls cannot be used in races or for bullfighting.

Unlike in Spain or Portugal, where bullfighting is widely regarded as an integral part of cultural heritage, the Goan version does not usually involve killing bulls.

Instead, the only human involvement is to hit, push and cajole the two bulls as they charge and butt each other in open fields during bloody fights that can last for hours until one of the beasts limps away in defeat.

"Hundreds of bulls are tortured in barbaric events like jallikattu [bull wrestling] and rekla races in south India and the dhirio [bullfighting] of Goa," Mr Krishna said.

Bullfighting was once a way of life in Goa, with thousands of people gathering on Sundays and public holidays to cheer on the animals. The controversial tradition was banned in 1998, but attempts were made in 2009 to bring back the practice after a local politician vowed to campaign against the ban.

The bid led to protests from animal rights groups, including the global People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and ultimately failed to get state sanction.

Bullfights, however, have continued illegally in certain places, with police being paid off to turn a blind eye. Big money is staked on the fights, often through foreign-based betting syndicates.