“Restore Bullock Cart Racing to Qila Raipur Games” – Khangura to Ministry of Environment & Forests - 24/02/2012

Jassi Khangura, Chairman of Grewal Sports Association and MLA for Qila Raipur today sent a strong letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. This letter asks the Director of the Animal Welfare Division of that Ministry, Dr Anjani Kumar, to overturn the ban on the star event of the Qila Raipur Games and to investigate why the Qila Raipur event was singled out by the Department.

Khangura said “The Notice under which the ban was slapped on the Qila Raipur bullock cart races seems to have been misapplied. It is a piece of legislation designed to protect animals from being forced to perform, such as in circuses, and does not appear to apply to our bullocks or oxen in any way.” He continued “racing bullocks are clearly sports or competition animals, more akin to race-horses than a dancing bear and I invite Dr Kumar and senior officials from the Animal Welfare Board to witness races for themselves.”

Referring to the last-minute way in which the ban was notified to the Grewal Sports Association, Khangura said “It’s most disappointing that the Qila Raipur Games were singled out in this way. Bullock cart races took place in villages near Qila Raipur during the same week, the animals were to be seen in villages around the area, but no action was taken against any other races. If animal welfare is genuinely at the heart of this matter then any such ban should be applied across the State, not just one event.”

Since the purpose of the ban is cited as animal welfare, Khangura said “as Chairman of the Grewal Sports Association, I can say that as the leading organisers of rural sports in Punjab, we would be more than happy to work with the Animal Welfare Division and the Punjab Animal Husbandry Department to develop and adopt guidelines for registering racing bullocks, use of whips , slaps etc and feel a ban is totally unnecessary not to mention misapplied.”

Khangura went on to refer to the fact that only last year in Muktsar the Punjab Animal Husbandry Department had helped organise bullock cart races. They did so with a focus on animal welfare, checking the animals’ health, controlling the inducements to the animals to race etc. He said “this shows that the Animal Husbandry Department can be progressively minded and keen to allow our rural heritage to continue, as are myself and the Grewal Sports Association.”

On the subject of protecting animals from harm or abuse, Khangura said “I contend that these competition bullocks are some of the better kept bovines in Punjab, well cared for and nurtured. Sadly other animals are left in the streets grazing from garbage bins, or pulling seriously overloaded carts. Unfortunately, none of these seem to be protected so aggressively by legislation.”

Khangura ended by asking Dr Kumar, Director, Animal Welfare Division to conduct an investigation into the ban of the bullock cart racing at Qila Raipur and to provide a clarification as to the definition of a “performing animal” such as a dancing bear and a sports or competition animal, such as a racehorse, bullock or greyhound.

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