PETA India Urges Odisha Chief Minister to End Use of Elephants in Jagannath Rath Yatra, Citing Public Safety Concerns

For Immediate Release:

18 June 2020


Sachin Bangera; [email protected]

Hiraj Laljani; [email protected]

Using Machines Instead Would Protect Elephants and Eliminate Risk of Tuberculosis Spread From Elephants to Humans

Bhubaneshwar – After the Orissa High Court observed that deploying machinery or elephants for pulling chariots would prevent a large number of people from gathering for Jagannath Rath Yatra during the COVID-19 pandemic, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India asked Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to leave elephants out of the festival now and in the future, citing their suffering and the public health risk the use of these animals poses in the form of tuberculosis. In April, PETA India presented a Hero to Animals Award to Patnaik for allocating Rs 54 lakhs to feed community animals during lockdown.

In its letter, PETA India pointed to a paper published by the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology – a premier research organisation operating under the aegis of the central Ministry of Science & Technology – explaining that elephants experience extreme stress when they’re made to participate in long, tiring processions, often leading to infertility, hyperglycaemia, and suppression of immunity.

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public is now more concerned than ever about the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans,” says PETA India CEO and veterinarian Dr Manilal Valliyate. “We are thankful to the honourable chief minister for caring for community animals during lockdown and hope he will now extend his compassion to elephants in order to protect everyone’s health.” Scientists overwhelmingly believe COVID-19 first infected humans through wildlife at a Chinese live-animal market.

PETA India’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”. The group notes that forcing elephants to carry heavy loads – as is the case in most processions – can, according to the paper mentioned above, multiply their concentration of stress hormones by as much as three times the base levels. As such, elephants kept in captivity at temples or zoos have poorer health than those living in their natural habitat.

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 indicated 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 infection caused by reverse zoonosis in three wild elephants in southern India.

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