This week the BBC reported on a woman in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu who had ‘shunned’ marriage in order to look after a prize fighting bull, amid controversy about whether or not the traditional Jallikattu bull taming contests should be permitted.

 

In the Jallikattu contests, which have taken place in Tamil Nadu for over 2000 years, bulls are released from a pen with bundles of money or gold tied to their horns, which bullfighters try to remove. Bullfighters are not permitted to use any weapons. To win the contest, a bullfighter has to hold onto the bull’s hump for 15-20 metres or three jumps of the bull. If no one succeeds in doing so, the bull wins the contest. Unlike in Spanish bull-fighting, the bulls are not killed, though contestants and spectators have been.

 

Animal rights campaigners say the contests are cruel and cause unacceptable stress to the bulls. They successfully campaigned in 2014 to get the Jallikattu contests banned, but following protests the ban was lifted in 2017. Selvarani Kanagarasu cares for a locally-revered, 18 year old champion bull who has won 5 of the 7 contests he has been in. Ms Kanagarasu says the bull is like her son; most of her income is spent on providing him with a special diet, and she takes him for exercise and swimming every day. Supporters claim that the fighting bulls are well-cared for and help ensure the survival of native Indian cattle breeds.

 

There is no uniform Christian response to animal welfare. The Bible justifies ritual animal sacrifice as something ordered by God, yet also speaks of God caring for every creature, and of swallows finding a place to nest within the altar used for animal sacrifices. Some Christians consider animal welfare as unconcerned with humans and therefore irrelevant. Others draw attention to Jesus’ teaching that we should be ever-widening our definition of ‘neighbour.’ They see animals and the environment as representative of the most vulnerable and least powerful of our neighbours and therefore see a caring and ethical treatment of animals and the environment as crucial to any authentic expression of the Christian faith.

 

  • Do you think the Jallikattu bullfighting contests should be banned? Why, or why not?

  • Campaigners in both Spain and India cite bullfighting as a fundamental part of the local culture. Does this matter?

  • How does your faith, or your belief system, influence your views about animal welfare?

 

Prayer for the wek - 18th January 2018

 

This week has seen representatives from North Korea and South Korea meeting together for talks for the first time in two years. Around the world, people have no doubt watched with either bated breath or indifference to see what may happen next. But can these talks really change anything?

Around the world this week, millions of people have attended events to welcome the start of 2018. For 24 hours our television screens showed firework displays as countries in turn moved from 2017 to 2018. And I had the conversation I have every year: what exactly are we celebrating?

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