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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 07:42 GMT
India outlaws 'cruel bull sport'
Bullfighting in Tamil Nadu
The sport is fast and dangerous (Copyright Oochappan)
The Indian Supreme Court has banned a version of bull fighting popular in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Jallikattu is an annual festival celebrated in two villages near the temple town of Madurai. The sport is said to be thousands of years old.

In jallikattu contestants do not try to kill the bull. But animal rights campaigners still say it is cruel.

The sport has also become increasingly dangerous. Every year dozens of people are injured and many are killed too.

Organisers say bullfighting is a sacrosanct Indian tradition, mentioned in the ancient scriptures.

They say the sport has existed for more than 2,000 years and is an integral part of Tamil culture.

Grappling with bulls

In prohibiting jallikattu, the Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, said "any event which involved cruelty to animals would not be permitted".

Hundreds of bulls are released one at a time into a large open space for the fights, which are held during the annual harvest festival known as Pongal.

Bullfighting in Tamil Nadu
Contestants and spectators are often in danger (Copyright Oochappan)

Contestants have to try to get close enough to the bulls to grab prizes and valuables tied to their horns. That often involves grappling with the animals.

Defenders of the sport say the bulls are only "tamed", rather than killed, so that participants can help themselves to the prizes.

As the bull-taming does not take place in a stadium, those taking part and spectators are often injured as the animals hurtle into the crowd.

Last year one person was killed during the festival. In 2005, five people died and more than 200 were injured during the fights.

Authorities say that although new safety measures are taken every year, the number of wounded continues to rise.

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