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Three ARAs Arrested in India

NEW DELHI (AFP) -- Police arrested three animal rights campaigners for protesting bullfighting in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Press Trust of India reported Friday.

Ingrid Newkirk, president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an international animal welfare group, was taken into custody Thursday after she blindfolded a statue of Indian freedom champion Mahatma Gandhi.

Two other PETA activists were also arrested in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore district on charges of "hurting the religious sentiments" and unruly behaviour, police said.

-- full story:  - send automated email letter to Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu

January 19, 2008

Spectator killed at controversial bull run

Jeremy Page in Delhi

India came under new pressure to ban a local version of bullfighting yesterday after a spectator was gored to death and a British animal rights activist was arrested for desecrating a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Cows are generally considered sacred by Hindus -- who make up more than 80 per cent India's 1.1 billion people -- and harming them is illegal and can provoke riots in the country.

Despite this, farmers in the southern state of Tamil Nadu traditionally celebrate the "Pongal" harvest festival in January with the sport of "jallikattu" -- a rough equivalent of the running of the bulls in the Spanish city of Pamplona. They decorate the bulls in bright colours, tie money around their horns and then chase them through a crowd, where young men try to "tame" them and seize the money, often wrestling the bulls to the ground.

While participants say they revere the bulls as much as cows -- never killing the animals -- they often feed them alcohol, rub chilli powder in their eyes and pinch their testicles to make them more aggressive.

The Supreme Court banned the sport last Friday, describing it as "barbaric and inhumane", in response to a petition from the Animal Welfare Board of India, which has been lobbying for a ban since 2004. The court then overturned the ban on Tuesday after protests from farmers, government officials and politicians in Tamil Nadu, who said the "valorous" sport was an integral part of local culture.

"Jallikattu, a heroic event of Tamils, has been in practice for many centuries," said a statement issued by L. K. Tripathy, the state's chief secretary. There were also protests from prominent Tamil actors, who had gone on hunger strike in December after India's censor board deleted a scene featuring jallikattu from a film.

Historians weighed in too, arguing that jallikattu could be traced back to 2000BC based on seals found in Mohenjodaro, the ruined centre of the Indus Valley civilisation.

As a compromise, the court ordered local authorities to regulate the sport, by checking the bulls� health and erecting barriers between spectators and participants among other measures.

The festival began on Wednesday and was attended by an estimated 100,000 people. It soon descended into the usual chaos and at least 106 people had been injured by yesterday. One 70-year-old spectator was gored to death on Thursday by an enraged bull that charged into the crowd.

On Thursday police arrested Ingrid Newkirk, the British founder of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She was questioned for two hours and charged with trespassing, desecrating a public statue and disturbing the peace after she blindfolded a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the town of Coimbatore.

"Gandhi opposed cruelty to animals, so I wanted to shield his eyes from what is happening in Tamil Nadu," Ms Newkirk, who went to school in India, told The Times. She said that the charges against her had not been dropped but that she had been allowed to fly to Bombay and planned to leave the country today.

Locking horns

The traditional bullfighting of the Camargue, France, involves players snatching paper rosettes from the horns before the animal retires after 15 minutes. Bulls fight seven games per season and spend the rest of their time roaming, semi-wild

In Japan bullfighting is much like Sumo with bulls ranked by ability. During matches, bulls lock horns and try to force each other to give up ground. Coaches keep the bulls from harming one another.

Sources: Gofrance, International Nishikigoi Promotion Centre

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