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Abandoned Bulls Are Killing Motorists in India

Legally protected from slaughter, cows are running wild.
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This article originally appeared on VICE India

Last month, a short video clip, showing a biker being rammed mercilessly by a charging bull in Bhubaneshwar, eastern India, went viral. Newsflare, an online video site, shared a clip of this “horrifying moment” on March 1, in which a bull, running from another bull, hit a biker and fled. The man lay on the ground senseless until a resident stepped out of his house to help out, followed by others. The man, who has not been named, spent the next seven days in a coma at the Intensive Care Unit of a local hospital. When he came around, the doctors reportedly pronounced his state as “critical”.


This is not the first time a man-beast conflict has been recorded in India. Leopards and tigers have pissed off some people (and paid for it), and so have elephants and crocodiles. But the bovine menace is different, reportedly because of the cow protection laws. The closure of dozens of slaughterhouses and some 50,000 meat shops in the state in recent years has seen a majority of the "holy" cows trampling over crops on agricultural land. In north India's state of Uttar Pradesh—where the state government has been leading the cow protection crackdown—authorities are being ordered to barcode its stray cattle.

At the same time, owing to their economic unproductiveness in the agricultural scheme of things, male bovines, or bulls, are usually one of the first to be abandoned in India. The population of stray cattle in India, which hasn't had a census in eight years, was last reported, in 2012, to be 52 lakh (Livestock Census).

However, if reports are anything to go by, the problem of stray bulls has devolved to violence, especially for small-town motorists, such as the one mentioned above. There have been several accounts of this growing menace. For instance, on March 31, in the city of Amritsar, a small stretch came to a standstill when four “ferocious” bulls created an impasse for the commuters. Even though there are three gaushalas (cow shelters) in the vicinity, the accidents continued to occur. In fact, a few months ago, a stray bull reportedly hit an autorickshaw in the middle of its commute. Late last year, the city of Meerut reportedly saw a “bull rampage”, which killed a commuter and injured four.

Bovine attacks have been reported on and off over the last many years, but it seems the beef ban has led to a spike in either the cases or, at least, reports on these cases. It's also important to note that bull violence is steeped in Indian culture, especially in the controversial tradition of Jallikuttu, which caused a furore across the country in 2017 after a 2014 ban was lifted on the festival. The festival was reportedly controversial because of its very nature: a bull is let loose among a crowd and the participants needs to control it. The festival has reportedly led to 50 human deaths since 2008.

Under the current Hindu nationalist government, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), cows—considered sacred in Hindu cultures—have been a pet project since the party came to power in 2014. The party might have skipped this theme of cow protection in its manifesto ahead of the upcoming 2019 election. But in the light of the 'cow vigilantism' that has led to at least 44 deaths and about 280 people injured in more than 100 attacks over the last three years, India has a serious case of bovine abandonment issue to deal with.

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