Ulema protests torture against racing cows

A number of ulemas in Madura have been urging the regional administration to issue bylaws against the use of torture on cows used in the traditional karapan sapi (cow race).

Munif Sayuti, one of the ulemas, said he acknowledged the race was a source of pride for the Madurese. Yet, he added, some ulemas had declared it was haram (prohibited under Islamic teaching) to use torture to encourage the cows to win the race.

He said that a number of methods used to make the cows run faster inflicted harm upon the animals. Applying heating balm to a cows' anus and eyes and beating them with nailed sticks are some commonly used methods.

"The ulemas do not want to ban karapan as it is part of Madurese culture. What we won't allow is physical violence both against animals and human beings," Munif told The Jakarta Post in Pamekasan, Madura, East Java.

Munif said that calls to avoid violence against racing cows had began a few years ago, but no action had been taken.

Torture against racing cows has continued, including during the recent karapan for the President Trophy held at Soenarto Hadiwidjojo Stadium in Pamekasan last Sunday.

"The 24 participants still used nailed sticks to beat the cows to make them run furiously. Unfortunately, the local administration and the organizing committee seemed to have turned a blind eye to the matter," Munif said.

He suggested that to prevent further violence from being committed in the future, a bylaw was needed.

According to Pamekasan historian Sulaiman Sadik, karapan sapi was first introduced by Prince Katandur of Sapudi Island, Sumenep, in the 13th century, and was named karapan salaga, to refer to the traditional cow-ridden plow used by farmers in the region.

At that time, only whips were used to encourage the cows to run faster. "In its development, however, karapan has become a form of animal torture. That's why we want to preserve the race by returning it to its original form," Sulaiman said.

Speaker of the Pamekasan Legislature Council Iskandar, said his office had been receiving complaints from both activists in Madura and tourists visiting the region regarding the use of torture in the karapan race.

This, he said, had resulted in a constant decrease in the number of tourist visits to the island over the past few years.

"The interest in seeing karapan sapi is still high among the Madurese, as shown by the number of people flocking to such events," Iskandar said.

"Yet, if we observe it much closer, fewer foreign tourists have been enjoying it lately," he added.

Iskandar said his office planned to conduct a publicity program both among the owners of the cows and other related parties to help eliminate the torture of cows in the traditional race.

Katijo, a cow owner in Pamekasan, however, expressed pessimism that eliminating torture in karapan would be successful as each cow owner wanted their animal to win.

"The cows that are beaten with nailed sticks and applied with balm run much faster than those that are only whipped," Katijo said. (Indra Harsaputra)

Sumber: The Jakarta Post, Fri, 10/30/2009

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