Killing of Mahout by Elephant at ISKCON in Nadia’s Mayapur Prompts PETA India to Call For Use of Mechanical Elephants in Rituals and Ceremonies

Posted on by Erika Goyal

After a horrific incident on 6 April in which an upset elephant, Bishnupriya – who left a mahout disabled in 2022 – turned violent and crushed a mahout to death, PETA India fired off a letter to International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Co-Director HH Jayapataka Swami in Mayapur, requesting that he urge ISKCON Mayapur to use mechanical elephants in rituals and processions. PETA India is also calling for live elephants Bishnupriya and Lakshmipriya to be released to reputable animal sanctuaries, where they could live unchained and recover from the captivity-induced mental trauma they’ve endured.

The media reported that Bishnupriya is chained, kept in an enclosure, used for rituals, and carries people on her back. All these things are completely unnatural – and therefore often anxiety-inducing – for the animal. Elephants are known to lash out after becoming frustrated by the enslavement of captivity.

PETA India has already donated three life-size mechanical elephants – Irinjadappilly Raman to the Irinjadappilly Sree Krishna Temple in Thrissur, Mahadevan to the Thrikkayil Mahadeva Temple in Kochi, and Shiva to Sri Veerasimhasana Mahasamsthana Math in Mysuru – in recognition of the temples’ decisions never to own or hire live elephants. Irinjadappilly Raman, Mahadevan, and Shiva are now used to conduct safe, cruelty-free ceremonies at their temples, helping real elephants remain with their families in nature.

Mechanical elephants can shake their heads, move their ears, swish their tails, and lift their trunks, and using them rather than real elephants helps temples ensure the safety of their attendees and conduct rituals humanely. The only costs involved in maintaining such an “elephant” are for electricity and staff to accompany it during public events.

Elephants are wild animals, and training them to be used for ceremonies, rides, tricks, and other purposes is done by violently dominating them to force them into submission, including by beating them and using weapons to inflict pain. Many elephants held captive in temples and other places suffer from extremely painful foot problems and leg wounds due to being chained on concrete for hours on end. Most of them are denied adequate food, water, veterinary care, and any semblance of a natural life. Under these hellish conditions, many elephants become intensely frustrated and lash out, sometimes killing mahouts or other humans. According to the Heritage Animal Task Force, captive elephants killed 526 people in Kerala in a 15-year period.

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