Guwahati: Following the Assam government’s decision to allow buffalo and bulbul bird fights, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India filed petitions with the Gauhati High Court, making the case for the traditional spectator sports to be prohibited again.
The state government has issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) for organizing buffalo and bulbul fights during the Magh Bihu celebrations at the traditional places associated with them over centuries.
The matter was up for hearing before Justice Manish Choudhury in the Gauhati High Court, and Senior Advocate Diganta Das made detailed submissions in support of PETA India’s prayer for urgent interim relief prohibiting buffalo and bulbul fights during the pendency of court proceedings.
PETA India’s petitions cited numerous violations of central laws in the conduct of these events. As evidence, PETA India submitted investigations into these fights, which revealed that terrified and severely injured buffaloes were forced to fight through beatings and that starved and intoxicated bulbuls were made to fight over food.
PETA maintained that an investigation into a buffalo fight on January 16 held at Ahatguri in the Morigaon district of Assam revealed that the buffaloes’ owners slapped and shoved them, jabbed them, and struck them with wooden sticks to incite them to fight other buffaloes. The buffaloes locked horns and fought, sustaining bloody wounds to their necks, ears, faces, and foreheads; many had injuries all over their bodies. The fights lasted until one of the two buffaloes broke away and fled, as the petition stated.
It was also stated that the owners and handlers dragged buffaloes around using ropes threaded through their sensitive nostrils. Some buffaloes’ nostrils bled due to yanking, and many repeatedly licked their nostrils in an attempt to relieve the pain. No shade, water, or food was provided for the buffaloes during the fight, a violation of the standard operating procedures for buffalo fighting issued by the Government of Assam. The animal rights organization also alleged that some buffalo owners forced the animals to fight in the spectators’ areas while the official fights were held in the arena. These unsanctioned fights increase the risk of buffaloes injuring or trampling human spectators, PETA said.
PETA also said an investigation was conducted into a bulbul bird fight held recently in Hajo, Assam, on January 15, which revealed that red-vented bulbuls, which are protected under Schedule II of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, were illegally captured and incited, against their natural instincts, to fight over food.
Capturing protected wild birds is considered a form of hunting and is illegal, the organization stated.
Giving details, PETA said that during the fight, a piece of banana is dangled in front of the hungry birds, inciting them to attack each other. Each fight lasted approximately five to 10 minutes, and handlers forced exhausted birds to continue fighting by repeatedly blowing air on them, it was alleged.
PETA India’s petition to the High Court pointed out that the buffalo and bulbul fights violate the Constitution of India, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and judgements of the Supreme Court of India, including in Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A Nagaraja. PETA India also notes that such fights are inherently cruel, cause immeasurable pain and suffering to the animals forced to participate, and contradict the tenets of ahimsa (non-violence) and compassion, which are integral to Indian culture and tradition. Allowing these events to continue is a regressive step that threatens to undo almost a decade of progress in human and animal rights.
“Buffaloes and bulbuls are gentle animals that feel pain and terror and don’t want to be forced into bloody fights in front of jeering crowds,” said PETA India Advocacy Associate Tushar Kol. “PETA India hopes the Gauhati High Court will recognise that this cruelty is a clear violation of central law and prohibit these violent fights.”
The case is now listed on February 1, 2024, for further consideration of PETA India’s interim prayers.