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Bulls and bullying: the fight over animal rights and tradition

KALAHAN DENG

A ban on the ancient practice of bull-taming has spurred thousands to protest in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. While the demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, the argument over the festival has turned ugly online.

This week around 4,000 protesters camped out on a beach in the state’s capital, Chennai (Madras) – with hundreds more gathering in other parts of the state.

The crowd, who are mostly students, are against India’s ban on Jallikattu, a 2,000 year old bull-taming tradition, which takes place as part of an annual harvest festival.

Bull-taming involves men chasing and removing prizes tied to the bull’s horns. Animal rights activists argue it’s abusive and results in mistreatment of the animals, but protesters contend the practice central to Tamil identity and that the bulls are rarely harmed or killed.

“I have been threatened with rape I’m called all sorts of names which I can’t repeat,” says Poorva Joshipura, CEO of PETA India.

“The general public are being incited and influenced through lies and online bullying and fake news which has unfortunately become so common in our world today,” Joshipura tells BBC Trending radio.

She takes particular issue with memes containing false personal information which have been shared online.

“One is a picture of me wearing my vegan boots (footwear made without leather or any animal ingredients), boots that I really like a lot. The meme falsely says that the boots are made of leather,” Joshipura says. “I have been campaigning against the leather industry for years.”