Raising the pitch for lifting the ban on annual buffalo race "Kambala" in Karnataka, thousands of people on Saturday staged a massive rally in Dakshina Kannada district here in support of the traditional sport, even as protests on the issue intensified.

Amid tight security, Kambala supporters marched in a nearly four-km long procession from Swaraj Maidan with 200 bullocks and ended their protest against the ban at Kadalakere Nisargadhama Kambala Track.

The protesters holding placards and shouting slogans demanded an ordinance, as was done in the case of Jallikattu (bull taming sport) in Tamil Nadu, to permit holding of the folk sport which is part of the tradition of the coastal Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts.

Kambala was part of agriculture and an 800-year-old tradition which was is indivisible component of our lives, the supporters said, emphasising that they treated the buffaloes as their own children and no violence was involved unlike in Jallikattu, where deaths and injuries to many occur.

The protest was called by various committees associated with the organisation of the sport, including the District Kambala Samiti, Sampradaya Kambala Samiti, Kambala Academy and Moodbidri Koti-Chennaya Jodukare Kambala Samiti.

A symbolic Kambala was planned earlier as part of the protest, but was given up after persuasion by district authorities against violating the law. The matter is before the Karnataka High Court at present and it will hear the case on January 31.

The annual sport, held from November to March, involves a pair of buffaloes tied to the plough and anchored by one person. They are made to run in parallel muddy tracks in a competition in which the fastest team wins.

Kambala is believed to be held to propitiate the Gods for a good harvest, besides being a recreational sport for farmers.

Meanwhile, a PETA statement said agitators in Karnataka have taken a leaf out of the pro-Jallikattu protesters' book and begun to falsely label PETA India as "foreign" and were now calling for banning the organisation.