Just before the Rio Olympics, badminton champion Jwala Gutta stars in a brand-new campaign for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India. Posing with a badminton racquet, she appears next to the silhouette of a rooster and the words “Badminton Is a Sport – Cockfighting Is Not”. The stunning print visual came to life with the help of photographer Sarath Shetty and hair and make-up artist Sohini Ghanate.
“I hope that people take this campaign very seriously”, says Gutta. “If you want to play a sport, play sports like badminton, cricket, tennis or any other sport, but not cockfighting.”
Roosters raised for fighting are often confined to cramped cages and tormented to make them aggressive. Razor-sharp spurs are attached to the birds’ feet to make fights more “exciting”, ie, bloody. The birds often have their eyes gouged out and sustain broken wings and legs, punctured lungs, and severed spinal cords. Those who survive are forced to fight again. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, prohibits forcing animals to fight.
In 2014, the Honourable Supreme Court of India ruled in favour of PETA India and confirmed forcing animals to fight is illegal nationwide – but cockfights are still organised in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and elsewhere.
Gutta is currently ranked 21st in the women’s doubles and mixed category for badminton. She is India’s top-level doubles player.