Animal Welfare Board Inspectors Stopped from Inspecting Elephants to be Paraded at Thrissur Pooram Festival

For Immediate Release:
17 April 2016

Dr Rakesh Chittora; [email protected]
Dr Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]

Thrissur – Yesterday, following the Honourable Kerala High Court order dated 14 April 2016 – which directed that “[n]o elephant which is found unfit to participate in the ceremonial parade shall be utilised and the District Magistrate will ensure that use of any such animal is clearly excluded” – the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)–authorised inspection team was not allowed to inspect the elephants who are to be paraded during the Thrissur Pooram festival. When the team members reached the venue to inspect the elephants, to their deep shock and surprise, they were denied permission by the district administration. The inspection team includes animal welfare experts and veterinarians from respected animal welfare organisations in the country. It is suspected that the fitness check being facilitated by the district administration, with the help of forest department and veterinarians from animal husbandry department, is a sham and that there is a conspiracy to use illegal elephants who do not have a valid ownership certificate – as mandated by Section 42 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 – as well as unfit elephants, as was done last year, in direct contempt of the Honourable High Court.

“The non-cooperation of the Kerala government and it’s failure to act against those who break animal-protection laws demonstrates that the only way to ensure the alleviation of suffering of Kerala’s captive elephants is to ban their use, remove them from captivity and send them to sanctuaries where they can live out their lives in peace unchained”, says PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs and Kerala State Animal Welfare Board Member Dr Manilal Valliyate.

Thissur Pooram festival has a history of exploiting elephants. In 2015, an inspection by the AWBI with veterinarians and other inspectors from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and Animal Rahat revealed apparently illegal conduct and abuse of elephants at the festival. Last year’s AWBI inspection also revealed that weapons were used against the elephants and that many of them suffered from painful abscesses, injuries from constant chaining, impaired vision, wounds that were deliberately hidden with black material and mental illness caused by prolonged stress. It also noted that festival organisers had not obtained the mandatory permission from the AWBI to use these elephants. During last year’s event, the animals were also chained by all four legs and forced to stand for many hours, with no protection from the hot sun, and were not given sufficient food or drinking water. It is strongly felt that the elephants being used in the festival this year will be subjected to the same cruel treatment and that the district administration and state government have conspired to prevent the AWBI-authorised team from inspecting the festival.

Last month, PETA India fired off a legal notice to the government of Kerala through PETA India’s lawyer calling for a halt to the government order issued on 26 February, which gives Kerala’s Chief Wildlife Warden an opportunity to allow people to declare 289 captive elephants in the state who are apparently under illegal custody and to issue them with an ownership certificate. PETA India argues that this contradicts the spirit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which prohibits the illegal capture, trade and custody of wild animals such as elephants, and the purpose of the interim order of the Honourable Supreme Court of India dated 18 August 2015.

For more information, please visit