See-saw in Goa over banning or legitimising bullfighting

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Panaji, March 3 (IANS) Animal rights groups are applauding a Goa government notification disfavouring ‘Dhirio’ — Konkani term for bullfighting — even though a legislative panel continues to see if the blood sport can be legitimised.

In a statement issued here on Thursday, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India chief executive officer Poorva Joshipura said that any attempt to lift the ban on the sport would tarnish the image of Goa before the world.

“Provoking bulls to injure or kill each other must be condemned by everyone in a civilised society,” Joshipura said.

PETA’s statement comes after the information and publicity department of the state government issued on Monday a statement warning the public against attending and organising bullfights.

“If any person (is found) violating the above order passed by the High Court, (he or she) shall be liable for criminal action as per law,” the statement said.

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Bullfight is a traditional post-harvest sport in Goa, which involves two specially reared bulls, with muscular physiques and sharpened horns, head-butting into each other, at times for nearly an hour, before one bull emerges victorious, by either goring his opponent or simply tiring his rival out.

The fight often ends in streaks of blood running down the bulls’ flanks or rump due to the ruptures caused by sharpened horns intended to pierce the hide.

The sport, once extremely popular, was banned in 1996 by the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court for violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960. But the ban has not managed to prevent illegal bullfights, which are organised in coastal villages, and attended at short notice by crowds of hundreds.

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The Monday notification issued by the state administration is meant to discourage just these groups, who regularly organise underground bullfights.

The Humane Society of International (HSI) India, which has been campaigning against legalisation of bullfights in Goa, has claimed the government’s articulation of the ban yet again is a progressive move.

“We are grateful for the progressive decision taken by the government of Goa. It reflects the constitutional value of compassion. With this, we hope that the house committee is dissolved and the law enforcement agencies duly implement the law,” HSI’s cruelty response manager Shreya Paropkari told IANS.

“Dhirio is an unbelievably cruel practice that involves forcing two bulls to fight each other until only one remains standing or both animals are grievously wounded,” she added.

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The BJP-led coalition government in Goa has already formed a legislative committee to re-examine the provisions of the PCA law and see whether the blood sport could be made legitimate again. The panel, headed by independent legislator Benjamin Silva, has not yet made much headway.

“It is not an easy matter. The committee will have to take into view existing laws and see if bullfighting can be legally conducted under them. We are working on it,” Silva said.

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