India court bans jallikattu bull fighting festival in Tamil Nadu

Bullfighting in Tamil Nadu in 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Every year dozens of people are injured and some die during the festival in Tamil Nadu

The Indian Supreme Court has banned a version of bull fighting which has been popular for centuries in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Jallikattu is an annual festival in which thousands of men chase the bulls to grab prizes tied to their horns.

The court said that use of bulls in the sport "severely harmed" the animals and was an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to the Animals Act.

Animals rights activists have described it as a "landmark" verdict.

"This is a landmark victory for animals in India. Year after year, court guidelines or laws were violated during jallikattu and bull races, and countless bulls and people have suffered and even painfully died," a a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) told the Press Trust of India.

The Supreme Court had previously banned the practice in January 2008, but reversed its order four days later, saying the sport could be allowed if certain guidelines were followed.

The state government, which had appealed against the order, saying the ban hurt the sentiments of the people, assured the Supreme Court that it would follow the guidelines to make the sport safe.

In 2011, the state government introduced a law to regulate jallikattu to prevent deaths and injuries to spectators during the sport.

Every year, dozens of people are injured and some are killed during the festival.

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

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

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