I am happy the Supreme Court restrained the Tamil Nadu Government from conducting the bull-taming “sport” Jallikattu.
Bentham, comparing slavery and sadism in Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, said: The question is not can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but Can they suffer? The fact that the bulls are not human does not mean they cannot suffer. In Jallikattu the bulls are deliberately disoriented, punched, dragged and jabbed and subjected to pain and suffering. It is not unreasonable to contend that the possibility of causing pain should be a deterrent to a proposed action unless the actor suffers from a personality disorder revelling in suffering over better alternatives in which event he would not be the rational being humans pride in being. And if one yet acts so one is worse than the non-human one claims superiority over!
Bentham, however, was talking of conscious experience. What about humans in coma? Physical abuse will yet not be justified merely because they are comatose. The bulls are conscious when they are prepared for and then involved in the “sport”. How then does one justify this duplicity?
And what about humane treatment to humans lacking in intelligence and understanding? Will cruelty be justified against those of unsound mind and impaired understanding merely because they do not have the capacity to reason and suffer from mental disabilities? The obvious answer is an emphatic no. Can lack of human intelligence then justify the bulls being treated as “sport”?
The very sense of our being bound into moral community is lost in this hypocrisy negating the very qualities on which we rely to claim superiority over non-human beings.
In Hinduism animals as much as humans are baddha jivas in different stages on consciousness being temporarily being bound by karma which causes them to transmigrate through different bodies in various realms of existence. They are manifestations of God though at a lower level of creation yet containing spark of the Divine.
The fact that animals have an inherent worth apart from their utilitarian benefits is recognised by contemporary ecological philosophy Deep Ecology which, very much like Hindu philosophy, moves away from an anthropocentric thought that human beings alone are the most important species on the planet.
The revival of the sport was clearly unnecessary.
Unless reason and intellect have an ethical foundation the very capacity to act and articulate which humans possess can only lead to tyranny. We have bulls as sport today. We will next revive “superior races” enslaving “inferior” ones tomorrow.