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Jallikattu and Biopiracy

Jallikattu ban has now taken a monumentally different proportion. The whole issue has transformed from banning a sport to Tamil culture. This 2 weeks in India all I did was, try and listen to the debates the news channels hosted to discuss this issue. Manliness, culture, breeding, sport, cinema - everything was discussed. But something that surprised me was, why not have a dialog with the concerned authorities? Dhanya Rajendran of The News Minute actually brought out this very question in the South Conclave but I am not sure why this was not looked at as a solution for this issue.

These basic grumbles aside, this post is my stand on this issue.

We cannot import Roman Gladiator type sport here. One can use computer for indulging in bull fighting. Why tame bulls for it!

This was one of the arguments from the bench. Gladiator was looked as a way to demonstrate the power and extent of the Roman world. These wild animals originated in all parts of the Roman Empire and conveyed the extent of the lands that had been conquered by the Romans.Also, the people who fought these animals were generally people who are trained for this sport. This sport was banned because a number of animals slaughtered at the end of this sport turned out to be a threat to the wide species of animals. But none of these can be attributed to Jallikattu. The bull is not slaughtered at the end of the sport. Also, bulls are not won over using weapons.

This is a targeted attack on Tamils

This is the start of some diverted discussions around this ban. The ban actually proposed to ban bull fighting first. But it later included that it baned the usage of Bos Indicus aka Zebu for bull fighting.These breed of bulls originate from Asia. Bos Indicus breeds of cattle are a natural fit for humid, tropical regions like northern Australia. Their slick coats and naturally occurring chemicals in their sweat repel cattle ticks and other parasites. Cattle with Bos Indicus bloodlines can be distinguished by a hump on their back, which sits across their shoulders. This is a fat store kept for tough times, similar to a camel. They also have large ears and dewlap (the saggy skin in front of their briskets) which help to keep the cattle cool.

The major zebu cattle breeds of the world include Gir, Kankrej and Guzerat, Indo-Brazilian, Brahman, Nellore, Ongole, Sahiwal, Red Sindhi, Butana and Kenana, Boran, Baggara, Tharparkar, Kangayam, Southern Yellow, Kedah-Kelantan, and Local Indian Dairy (LID). Kedah-Kelantan and LID originated from Malaysia.

This clearly indicates that it is not targetted towards just Tamilnadu breeds. But lets take a closer look at the indigenous breeds and their distribution.

Now look at the distribution of the cross breed cows.

This lead to a natural other question of performance comparison amongst these breeds.

With the below indicator as reference, take a closer look at the milk yield across various districts

Indigenous breed milk production - 1993 to 1998

Cross breed milk production - 1993 to 1998

Indigenous breed milk production - 2011 to 2013

Cross breed milk production - 2011 to 2013

I am not particularly sure about the A1 A2 milk concept but it is a widespread belief that the native breed cow’s milk contain more A2 protein. A recent study suggests that the lactose intolerance is manily due to the inability to digest A1 protein. This article has a detailed outline of the A1A2 milk proteins and the breeds.

Another interesting article on the milk types and breeding in accordance with the right milk protein is here

Given that every other country acknowledges the relationship between our indigenous cows and A2 milk, it becomes even more important for us to start preserving our indigenous breeds.


If not for all these customary ways to preserve these breeds, the future of India’s dairy industry relies heavily on imported bull semen! Recently, the state government of Gujarat has decided to import from Brazil 10,000 doses of Gir bull semen as the cow population of this prestigious breed has declined in Gujarat. For ages, Gir bull has been seen as the pride of Gujarat. This news was such shocker to me and left me wondering if there were any other such indigenous breeds affected by this biopiracy. Surprisingly, world’s best Gir cows today gives on an average 5500 liters of milk per lactation. This is approximately 6 times the native breed’s yield. Brazil initially imported native breeds to boost its meat production. After few years of R&D on these native breeds, they are vital candidates for milk production as well. Thanks to the Intensive Cattle Breeding Programme (ICDP), almost 80 per cent of the Indian cattle has already been labeled non-descriptive. Not just Brazil, US and Australia are also exporting our breeds and turning them to literally cash cows!

PETA is virtually now a puppet in hands of some glitz, glamor and MNCs. The request for banning Jallikattu eventually makes the last set of indigenous breeds vanish/bear a tag ‘I am sold’. If not for Jallikattu, raising these native bulls is not an affordable affair. If farmers cannot raise them, they can eventually become a bunch of imported semen breeds.

May be the prime channels must start having some sensible panel discussions with concerned authorities of PETA, Agriculture and animal husbandary research team and the bench that reviewed this case. No point of discussing it with Avadi Kumar, Vishal, Mansoor Ali Khan et al.

Data Sources:

  1. Department of Animal Husbandary, Dairying and Fisheries
  2. Dairy knowledge portal