When boxer Vijender Singh steps into the ring, he knows he’s going to have to take some punches. But the Olympic medalist is there by choice, unlike the animals who are forced into the circus ring and often beaten in order to force them to perform confusing and sometimes painful tricks. In his new PETA ad, Vijender is asking everyone to refuse to patronize circuses that exploit and abuse animals. The ad was shot by ace photographer Anil Chawla. Vijender’s make-up and hair were done by Anupama Mehra.
“Animals cherish their freedom every bit as much as we do, but circuses deny them their freedom and every other form of natural expression”, Vijender says. “I’m asking people across India to help knock out cruelty by never attending a circus that uses animals.”
Vijender, the recipient of India’s highest sports honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, knows how much it can inspire an athlete to hear the fans cheering him or her on. But he also knows that the roar of a crowd of people can have the opposite effect on captive animals. Dragged into the middle of a noisy tent, animals perform out of fear, as trainers stand nearby, holding a whip or ankus as a menacing reminder of what will happen if they don’t do as they’re told.
And at the end of the day, there are no awards or accolades awaiting these animal performers – just heavy chains, cramped cages and miles of lonely roads.
Vijender urges all sports fans to patronize only events in which the participants are willing human athletes. You can help by asking the Ministry of Environment and Forests to ban the use of animals in circuses.