Following COVID-19, PETA India Warns That National Strategic Plan for TB Ignores Risk From Animals

For Immediate Release:

17 June 2020


Sachin Bangera; [email protected]

Hiraj Laljani; [email protected]

Group Says Proposed Draft Strategy Must Consider Significance of Animal-to-Human and Human-to-Animal TB Transmission

Delhi – In response to the notice issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare seeking stakeholder input in the draft National Strategic Plan to End Tuberculosis in India 2020–2025, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India’s submission states that without a plan to address the high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in animals (such as bovines and elephants) and its nature as a zoonosis (a disease that can spread from other animals to humans and vice versa), the elimination of TB in humans in India is impossible.

PETA India points out that, according to recent scientific articles, 7.3% of India’s bovine population, an estimated 21.8 million cattle (including those used for dairy), are infected with TB. The group also cites an Indian study in which 12.6% of humans in one group were found to be carrying the bacterium that causes bovine TB, and consumption of raw milk was found to be a key factor in their infection. Other scientific studies shared by the group indicate incidences of TB in elephants, sheep, pigs, chickens, and wild birds raised in captivity.

PETA India notes that screening each animal for TB is deemed impractical (in fact, no TB disease surveillance is conducted on animals in India); diagnosis of TB is difficult in animals; treatment of animals for TB is ineffective and costly; prevention and control of TB in animals is impossible, as there’s no effective vaccine available; and there is incidence of reverse zoonosis, which creates more hosts for the bacteria.

“Elephants at Amer Fort near Jaipur have tested reactive for TB and were still used for joy rides, putting tourists at risk,” explains PETA India CEO and veterinarian Dr Manilal Valliyate. “Now, we have requested that the Central Tuberculosis Division advise the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying to prohibit the exhibition and training of elephants for performances, including joy rides and other human-animal interactions, since these are not considered a necessity under the law. A public-health warning from the Ministry of Health about TB risk from raw milk consumption, which may be especially common in rural areas, would also help.”

PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” – notes that a 2018 Animal Welfare Board of India evaluation report on captive elephants used for rides in Jaipur states that 10% of them were found to be reactive for TB. A scientific study of 600 elephants in southern India indicates a high prevalence of asymptomatic M tuberculosis infection. Another study found human-to-elephant and elephant-to-human transmission of M tuberculosis between mahouts and captive elephants. In addition, a recent paper confirmed TB caused by reverse zoonosis in three wild elephants in southern India.

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