Following COVID-19, PETA India Urges Ban on Use of Animals in Tourist Attractions for Public Safety

For Immediate Release:

10 June 2020


Sachin Bangera; [email protected]

Hiraj Laljani; [email protected]

Group Cites Zoonotic Disease Risk, Rampant Violation of Laws, and Animal Welfare Problems as Major Concerns

New Delhi – In response to the tourism ministry’s announcement that because of COVID-19, it’s working on a process of certification which would establish minimum standards of safety and sanitisation measures to be followed by the tourism industry to help protect the public, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India fired off a letter to Minister of Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel urging him to ban the use of animals in all tourist attractions in India. The group warns that zoonotic diseases (which can spread to humans from other animals), rampant violation of animal protection laws, and animal welfare concerns are pertinent reasons to phase out animal use immediately.

While scientists overwhelmingly believe COVID-19 first infected humans at a live-animal meat market in China, wild and other animals commonly used by the tourism industry can and do also transmit zoonotic diseases to humans – including tuberculosis from elephants, glanders from horses, and camelpox and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (which is caused by a coronavirus) from camels.

“Elephants, horses, and camels carry humans on their backs or perform tricks only because they’re forced to do so through violent training,” says PETA India CEO Dr Manilal Valliyate. “We’re letting the Ministry of Tourism know the use of animals is unsafe for not only the animals but also tourists. Abused animals can be dangerous, as they often retaliate, and those in the tourism industry frequently harbour diseases that can infect humans who are around them.”

Most of the animal rides using elephants, camels, and horses are apparently illegal, since the animals aren’t registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), the prescribed authority under The Performing Animal (Registration) Rules, 2001. Making animals give rides, forcing them to do tricks, and allowing interactions or photos with them are all activities that give rise to a number of animal welfare concerns. When used for rides, animals are controlled with weapons and forced to bear the weight of humans, carriages, and tourists’ luggage. Elephants and other animals are also commonly kept in chains or tightly tethered when not in use. According to figures compiled by the Heritage Animal Task Force, captive elephants have killed 526 people in Kerala alone within a 15 year span.

In its 7 May 2014 judgment in the matter of AWBI v A Nagaraja and Others, the Honourable Supreme Court of India noted, “Entertainment, exhibition or amusement do not fall under … exempted categories [under Section 11 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960] and cannot be claimed as a matter of right under the doctrine of necessity.”

PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” – supports the advisory issued by the AWBI to the central government in 2017 recommending the implementation of strong legislation to end the use of animals in circuses as well as its 2016 advisory recommending that the central government issue a notification to ban the training, exhibition, and use of elephants for performances in India.

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