India's Supreme Court has banned this year's bull fighting ritual at a harvest festival in southern India following angry protests from activists who say the sport amounts to animal torture.

The court also asked the Environment Ministry to respond to petitions from several animal rights groups that have campaigned to have the sport of Jallikattu permanently outlawed.

Jallikattu takes place in Tamil Nadu state during the harvest festival of Pongal, which falls this year on Friday.

Thousands of men chase the bulls to get prizes tied to their horns. Animal rights groups say the animals are terrified and are often deliberately disoriented with alcohol, and are wounded with knives and sticks as they are dragged to the ground.