PETA Investigation Reveals That Partially Blind, Wounded, Beaten Elephants are Being Used During Thrissur Pooram

For Immediate Release:
5 May 2017

Manilal Valliyate; [email protected]
Shambhavi Tiwari; [email protected]

Banned Weapons, Lame Elephants, Other Cruelty Found

Thrissur – An investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has revealed rampant cruelty to elephants during Thrissur Pooram. Elephants with open wounds, painful abscesses, cracked nails, impaired vision, and lameness were paraded in this year’s festival. Many mahouts were observed hitting elephants with banned metallic ankuses (weapons with a sharp metal hook on one end) and wooden sticks. At many locations where the animals were exhibited, there was no access to drinking water, and some were made to walk and stand on a hot tar road with no shade. Investigators also observed that their fore and hind limbs were hobbled with short, heavy, sometimes rusted, metallic chains that severely restricted their movement. They were also forced to stand close to an area where fireworks were being set off. The findings reveal that the elephants were subjected to cruelty in apparent violation of the orders of the Supreme Court and the Kerala High Court as well as multiple  various animal-protection laws. Since the elephants were suffering from various ailments, the fitness certificates issued, if any, would be illegitimate and against veterinary professional ethics and codes of conduct.

“Reducing these representatives of Lord Ganapati to slaves in chains, training and exhibiting them under the threat of ankuses and other weapons, and exposing them to loud fireworks and drumming and a crowd of thousands they would find frightening is cruel”, says Dr Manilal Valliyate, PETA’s director of veterinary affairs and a member of the Kerala State Animal Welfare Board. “Today’s findings reinforce those of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) in 2015 and 2016 that these elephants are abused. Abused animals cannot bless – they can only curse.”

In its 18 April 2015 order, the Supreme Court stated that if any owner, organiser, or festival or temple coordination committee treated elephants cruelly, the offender would be held liable for contempt. The Kerala High Court, in its 14 April 2016 order, 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 Rajasthan High Court, in 2010, and the Chief Wildlife Warden of Kerala, in 2015, had prohibited the use of iron ankuses, but they are still being carried by mahouts, ridiculing these orders. Capturing an elephant is prohibited under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, yet many captive elephants are thought to have been caught illegally in the wild, which PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” – is working to stop. Currently, PETA is calling for elephants used in processions to, at a minimum, be required to be registered with the AWBI as performing animals.

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