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Global Ideas

Festivals of man and beast

Besides being used for transport, agriculture and being kept as pets, in many parts of the world, animals are integral to customs and cultural traditions. While some are celebratory, others are simply horrific.

This week saw thousands of people take to the streets in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu demanding the resumption of the Jallikattu bull taming festival, which is part of the festivities during the Tamil New Year.

The festival, which sees young men wrestling bulls in the street, was banned by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it is cruel. Animal welfare groups say the animals are fed alcohol and have chilli powder thrown into their faces when they are release from their pens.

But those involved in organising the event says the animals come to no harm, and that it is an essential part of their culture.

"It is a primitive sport and we love it. No one has the right to stop a sporting activity," Kanimozhi Subramanian, a university student involved in the protests told the AFP newsagency. 

The protests, which saw schools, shops and even factories close in sympathy, led the state's chief minister to fly to Delhi to appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reinstate the annual event.

A statement issued by his office said that while he appreciates "the cultural significance" of 'jallikattu', the matter currently rests with the country's highest court, which is due to rule on a 2016 federal move permitting the rite.

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