By Risidra Mendis Ceylon Today Features
Can you imagine the pain and torture that cart bulls are put through when they are forced and beaten to run in a race while dragging a cart behind them? For those of you who eagerly wait for the horse racing season and drive up to Nuwara Eliya to watch the famous horse races, has it ever crossed your mind what those horses are put through when they are being trained to race?
Believe it or not there was a time in Sri Lanka when elephants were used to play polo.
It is interesting to note that the elephant polo sport may have continued despite the immense cruelty towards the animals if not for the fact that at an elephant got out of control during an elephant polo match held a few years ago. The main reason for scrapping elephant polo in the country was due to this elephant getting out of control. Illegal cock fights also take place on and off with no compassion towards the animals.There are always two sides to a story and despite all the excitement and fun of watching a horse race you will be amazed at what goes on behind the scenes and prior to the commencement of the races. Horses are beaten to train them to run faster and steroids that are not good for their health are forced down their throats to give them the strength to run faster in the race.
"Using animals for the fun and excitement of human pleasure should not be encouraged as cruelty is imposed on the animals. Horse racing takes place during a special season in Nuwara-Eliya. Bullock cart races are a common sight during the Sinhala and Hindu New Year. What people need to understand is that these animals are running in these races because they are forced to do so and not because they enjoy what they are doing. Animals just like humans have feelings and developed minds. Using animals in sports may have been done in the past. But it is about time we stopped this cruelty to animals. There are many other sports that people can do for the Sinhala and Hindu New Year instead of using animals. People can run races, they can race on bicycles and engage in many other activities to entertain themselves during the festive season," Zoologist Dilan Peiris told Ceylon Today.
He added that Lord Buddha has never said animals should be used for sports and harassed and tortured for human pleasure.
"Cart bull race practices are taking place these days on the Bandaragama Piliyandala road (in preparation for the Avurudhu season), with the bulls being beaten to hasten their speed. I noticed nine carts taking part, with motor cycle escorts. I took it up with the "Tell IGP" on-line complaints facility and the Mount Lavinia police took immediate action to commence an investigation.
Although cock fights are illegal they still take place. These helpless roosters die in agony while for the onlookers it is fun, excitement and amusement. Four horses who had taken part in the Nuwara Eliya Races, last year had died of steroid overdoses. We have appealed to the Sports Minister to conduct an inquiry into this sad and unfortunate incident so that those responsible for this cruel and irresponsible act can be dealt with. When the Animal Welfare Bill which was approved by Cabinet recently is enacted we will have a stronger and more effective law. The proposed law makes it an offence to train an animal in a way that is detrimental to its health and welfare including an animal to exceed its natural capabilities or strength. Willfully administering any injurious drug or substance to an animal is another offence in the proposed law. There are also some 'sport' related offences, such as organizing any recreational sport involving injury to or destruction of the lives of animals or fighting or baiting animals. Those found guilty can be fined up to sums of Rs 20,000," Attorney At Law and Animal Rights Activist Lalani Perera said.
Environment lawyer Jagath Gunewardene said cock fights are banned in Sri Lanka under the Gaming Ordinance. "If bulls and horses are ill treated during the races action can be taken against the culprits under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Ordinance.
The only remaining horse racing venue in Sri Lanka is the Nuwara Eliya Racecourse. According to historical details it was John Baker, the brother of Samuel Baker, who is credited for introducing horse racing to Nuwara Eliya. In the 1840s Baker created a training course for his imported English thoroughbreds on a hill close to his home.
In 1956 horse racing was banned in Sri Lanka with the historic Colombo Racecourse in Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo together with the Nuwara Eliya course both closing down. The Colombo Racecourse was subsequently converted into an international rugby venue, so when horse racing returned to Sri Lanka in 1981 the Nuwara Eliya Race Course became the only surviving race track in the country.
Five horse racing meets are held in Nuwara Eliya during the April season. Meets are also held in August and December with the most prestigious race being the Governor's Cup.
A cockfight is considered a blood sport by Animal Welfare Activists where two roosters (cocks) better known as gamecocks are held in a ring called a cockpit. The roosters are bred specially for cock fights and are put through immense physical trauma when they fight with each other much to the excitement of the spectators. Even though it is a known fact that one rooster may die during the fight in some cases the animals are badly injured. Cockfighting is said to be the world's oldest spectator sport. However it is banned in Sri Lanka even though this sport takes place illegally.
The bullock cart on the other hand was initially used in Sri Lanka to transport goods from one place to another before four wheel vehicles were introduced to Sri Lanka. A bullock cart or an ox cart is a two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle pulled by a bull. Bullock carts are still used in Sri Lanka though their numbers have reduced drastically since ancient times but are still used even today to transport firewood and kerosene oil. There are bullock carts that are pulled by one bull and others that are pulled by two bulls.