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Running a losing race?

VIJAYAWADA, OCT. 3 . The Andhra Pradesh High Court's ban on ox races in the State has put a damper on farmers who raise the majestic Ongole Bull, a species sought after in the U.S. and Brazil.

The ox races, held as part of "Sankranti" and other farmers' festivals across the coastal Andhra Pradesh, created only a healthy competition among farmers in nurturing the docile variety of bulls.

The Ongole Cattle Breeders Welfare Association president, Koppula Sivanagi Reddy, said today that breeders in Brazil and other countries had evinced interest in importing the Ongole Bull, which would attain a weight of 600 kg in just two years.

Business potential

The association members plan to visit these countries soon to explore the business potential for the bull which now fetched Rs. 10 lakhs to Rs. 15 lakhs.

The ox race, unlike the horse races which are allowed in the State, involved no gambling and was conducted by temple authorities, the association secretary, Jacob M. Sachariah said.

The association planned to move the High Court seeking the lifting of the ban.

If the ban continued, the farmers would lose interest in rearing the bull and this would lead to its extinction over the years, they said.

`Ban unjust'

"The ban is unjust, particularly when horse races are permitted in the State. There are even instances of horse owners putting to sleep the animal when it fails to win," Dr. Sachariah said.

The High Court had, on a petition from the State Jeevaraksha Sangam, issued a mandamus declaring an order by the State Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Department allowing ox races as violative of Article 51-A (Fundamental Right) of the Constitution vis--vis the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The association members would urge the Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, to promulgate an ordinance in the wake of the High Court quashing the pertinent GO 194 which permitted ox races in various districts of the State such as Krishna, Prakasam, Kurnool, Nalgonda, West Godavari and Guntur.

The breeders said that the State Government should recognise ox races as rural sports and encourage them with the involvement of the Tourism Department.

`No cruelty'

They breeders said that the race did not cause or mean any cruelty to bulls as they were only prodded with sticks to make them run faster.

However, animal rights activists maintain that events such as the "bandalagudu" (making bulls pull carts carrying huge boulders) and "bandiswari" (bullock-cart race) definitely involved cruelty to animals.

Each ox deployed in the race was loaded with boulders weighing between 1,000 to 2,000 kg.

The draught animal would be beaten with a sharp-edged stick all through the event, they said.

— UNI

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