Mysuru: Members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India gathered in front of the Balarama Gate near Kote Anjaneya Temple on August 9 to call for an end to the use of elephants in performances, including circuses and processions, and for tourist rides. People oppose PETA’s allegation that the Dasara elephants which are taking part in the procession too undergo cruelty.
According to a press release from PETA, "Elephants are used in the Vijayadashami procession during the Mysuru Dasara festival. Mahouts (handlers) start bringing groups of the animals to the city approximately a month before the start of the festivities, transporting them in trucks or forcing them to walk the 70 kilometres from the Nagarahole National Park to Mysore. They're then 'trained" to perform in the parade.
Even though elephants are protected under Schedule I of The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and have been declared a national heritage animal by the central government, they're excluded from the list of animals banned from performances under Section 22 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Existing animal-protection laws prohibit any training, exhibition, or use of elephants for performances that require them to engage in types of behaviour that aren't natural for elephants, and the legislation requires that the state forest departments seize animals if housing, upkeep, and maintenance aren't adequate–but these laws are often ignored.
An Animal Welfare Board of India study points out that there's substantial evidence that cruelty is inherent in training wild animals such as elephants to perform. Their spirits are broken in order to make them obey human commands, they're forced to perform meaningless tricks, they're kept chained when not performing, and they're exhibited in crowded, noisy, and unnatural environments. The report also draws attention to the increasing number of incidents in which elephants have reacted to abuse and have hurt or killed many humans–as well as the prevalence in captive elephants of zoonotic diseases such as tuberculosis, which can spread to humans. According to figures compiled by the Heritage Animal Task Force, between 2001 and 2016, captive elephants killed more than 526 people in Kerala.
"Elephants are highly intelligent and only carry humans on their backs because they've been physically wounded and psychologically traumatised by violent beatings," says PETA India's Radhika Suryavanshi.
Prashanth, President, Mysuru Travel Agents Association said, “Dasara is going on for the past more than 400 years and elephants play a major role. Without elephants, we can’t think of Dasara. Well before Dasara events, for more than two months, the relevant elephants are given special food which is not available in the forest. The treatment given to elephants is too good. Elephants are a part of Dasara. There is no question of cruelty here. No one should stop elephants from taking part in Dasara. What about bullock carts and tangas then?”
Siddaramappa, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) also reiterated the same.
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