Animal Welfare Board Advises Central Gov’t to Prohibit Use of Elephants for Performances

For Immediate Release:
8 September 2016

Dr Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]
Sachin Bangera; [email protected]

Board Acted Based on Study Report Submitted by Experts, Including PETA, Just Before Elephant From Rambo Circus Ran Amok, Causing Panic in Pune

Delhi –Following reports that an elephant from Rambo Circus ran amok in Pune yesterday, causing panic in the city, and in the true spirit of Ganesh Chaturthi, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India can report today that the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) – the prescribed authority under the Performing Animals (Registration) Rules (PARR), 2001 – through an advisory issued to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), has recommended that the MoEFCC issue a central notification conferring exercise of powers to it according to Section 22 (ii) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, to ban the training, exhibition, and use of elephants for performances in India. Elephants, though protected under The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, are excluded from the ban imposed by the central government which prohibits the use of various wild species from being used for performances. This recommendation is based on a study report submitted by the members and co-opted members of the board, including animal-welfare and legal experts from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India.

The AWBI advisory to the MoEFCC can be viewed here.

Potential human deaths and other major disaster were averted yesterday afternoon in Pune when a team of civic officials and local police took nearly three hours to capture an elephant from Rambo Circus after she escaped and ran amok as a result of the continuous abuse she endures. Based on an earlier report of Rambo Circus by AWBI-authorized inspectors, including veterinarians from PETA India, AWBI had cancelled the Performing Animal Registration Certificate for all animals in Rambo Circus, and the Central Zoo Authority had cancelled its captive animal facility recognition, which is mandatory for the circus to use elephants for performances.

The study report on elephants submitted by the members and co-opted members of the board pointed out that there is substantial evidence that cruelty and abuse are inherent when wild animals such as elephants are violently trained, their spirits are broken to make them obey human commands, they’re forced to perform difficult tricks, and they’re exhibited in crowded, noisy, and unnatural environments. The study report also drew attention to the increasing number of incidents in which elephants have reacted to human abuse and have hurt or killed many people – as well as the prevalence of zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis in captive elephants, which can spread to humans. According to figures compiled by the Heritage Animal Task Force, captive elephants have killed more than 526 people in Kerala within the last 15 years alone. The 43rd general meeting of the AWBI, held in Chennai on 23 July 2016, approved this study report and made a decision to send this advisory.

“The Animal Welfare Board has honoured elephants in the best way possible this Ganesh Chaturthi”, says PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate. “It’s high time we unshackled these representations of Lord Ganesha from chains and allowed them to live their lives as nature intended. Banning their use in performances would bring us closer to that goal.”

In 1998, the Central Government issued a notification that bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, and lions shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals. The notification was issued based on the recommendation of a high-level expert committee, which concluded that cruelty is inherent in circuses and that wild animals undergo unnecessary pain and suffering when they are trained and forced to perform. The committee also pointed out that the circuses cannot achieve adequate standards of housing and upkeep for captive wild animals, as they are constantly on the move, like a mobile zoo – and mobile zoos are not permitted in India.

After reviewing the AWBI-authorised inspection reports on elephants in circuses, the 39th general meeting of the AWBI, held in Chennai on 23 August 2013, made a decision to stop registering elephants for performances under PARR and also to propose that the MoEFCC include elephants – the only wild animal excluded from the ban, though protected under Schedule I of The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 – on the list of banned animals under Section 22 of the PCA Act, 1960. The recent decision and advisory of the board also reflects its findings regarding the suffering of captive elephants when they are paraded in temple festivals in southern states like Kerala and elsewhere or when used for joy rides in tourist destinations such as Jaipur.

Elephants in captivity are abducted from their families, chained by the legs, and beaten into submission – they are wild animals who cannot be considered domesticated simply because they are held in captivity. They are forced to perform ridiculous, frightening, and often dangerous tricks under the constant threat of punishment from ankuses (bullhooks), which are jabbed into the sensitive skin on their faces, feet, and knees. In the wild, elephants are highly social animals who thrive in matriarchal herds, protecting each other and caring for orphaned babies. They also travel many miles a day, which is necessary for their health and well-being. There is scientific evidence that elephants experience joy, sadness, and fear. In captivity, their complex and multifaceted emotional relationships are left in tatters. Most of the elephants in circuses, temples, and the tourism industry spend only 1 per cent of their time performing tricks – they spend the rest chained, eating usually substandard food, and exhibiting stereotypic behaviour indicative of extreme mental distress.

The existing animal-protection laws of the country prohibit any cruel training, exhibition, or use of elephants for performance as well as housing, upkeep, or maintenance that is in any way cruel or unnatural to their instincts or that compromises their health and welfare. Numerous AWBI inspections have proven beyond doubt that training, exhibition, and use of elephants for performance is inherently cruel.

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