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Animal Rights: Taking the Bull by the Horns


Kambala is a traditional festival of buffalo racing, local to the southern coast of Karnataka, India. It is an extremely popular form of entertainment, and attracts many spectators – tourists and locals alike. The races take place on a muddy, slushy 160 metre track, where there are two teams; each consisting of a man and his two bulls. Kambala started approximately 1000 years ago, but there are different beliefs regarding its origin. Some believe that it was a  festival commemorating the gods, specifically Lord Shiva’s incarnations for a better harvest, whereas others believed it an ancient royal sport. Despite being a long-lasting tradition, it came to the attention of officials in 2014 through PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc.) that the buffaloes are mistreated to the point where it is considered animal cruelty.

Animal Cruelty

The races are intense. It is a competitive event, and winning requires skill, with a prize not just of monetary value, but also of status and pride. Winning is the ultimate goal, and not everything is taken into consideration by the competitors. There is much room for error when it comes to caring for the animals’ well-being, as was discovered in 2014. Monitoring these races brought to light the atrocious situation of animal cruelty in the Kambala Festival. The buffaloes are whipped, beaten, and shouted at to ensure speed by instilling fear into them. They also have extensive nose wounds, due to the ropes that wind, rub and blister them. It was also discovered that they do not even have padding or bedding in the small vehicles they are carried in. Also, calves are forced to run alongside fully-grown buffaloes, resulting in them being trampled. The way in which these buffaloes are treated is unnecessarily brutal, and inhumane.

Last Year’s Model

After much analysing of the event, it was proved that Kambala was similar to a Tamilian bull-taming sport called ‘Jallikattu’, previously banned by the Indian Supreme Court. However, Kambala was still celebrated in 2014, but under “supervised conditions”. Last season, the events were regulated by spectating government officials. Around 65 cases were filed against the Kambala organisers following the visible cruelty towards the buffaloes. Even after much political action, and attempts on PETA’s part to stop the event from occurring, the government has reached the conclusion not to stop the races, and has stated that it will follow last year’s model.

Will It Work?

This year’s Kambala Festival  started on the 21st of November, and will end on the 19th of March 2016. Hopefully, the buffaloes will be treated better due to the spectating officials, but it is rather unlikely due to the system’s inefficacy last year.

Kambala Should Be Banned

Dr. Manilal Valliyate (PETA India’s Director of Veterinary Affairs) stated that “PETA is asking the state of Karnataka to uphold the law and the Supreme Court judgment and spare animals needless suffering.” I support PETA in their goal to end this cruelty, even if it results in completely banning Kambala next year, and for many years after, for the sake of the buffaloes’ livelihood in an attempt to fight those who practice animal cruelty. It’s time we take the bull by the horns, and stop animal cruelty.

[Image Attribute:Yohanes Parianto]

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