One nightmare for elephants in India will soon be over. After a nine-month long investigation, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has banned the registration of elephants under the Performing Animals Rules. The ban effectively outlaws the use of elephants in circuses throughout the country.
To say that elephants forced to perform in circuses have suffered horrific abuse is to understate the matter. From investigating 15 circuses, PETA India found that elephants had been taken from their homes in the wild and made to spend their lives in chains. All the while, they were jabbed at and struck with weapons including nail-studded sticks and ankuses (metal hooks with sharp, spear-like ends). Training (often under inebriated handlers) left elephants in pain, bruised and bloody.
What’s more, elephants were found to be dying from inadequate care. They were not provided with veterinary care for their numerous injuries and more than a few were “going missing” under mysterious circumstances
The investigation was carried out by a team with representatives from PETA India and from Animal Rahat, an NGO that seeks to improve the lives of working animals in India. The team found ample evidence of cruelty and abuse suffered by the animals, in apparent violation of India’s 1960 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) and the 1972 Performing Animals Rules and the Wildlife Protection Act.
Even more, the AWBI has ruled that injured and aged animals cannot be used at circus performances. Should these rules be broken, violators will be served with legal notices.
“The findings from our investigations reveal that cruelty to animals is inherent in the circus business, a conclusion that has already led many countries to ban the use of all animals in circuses,” said Dr. Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs at PETA India.
Bollywood star John Abraham and other celebrities have provided vital support for the campaign. As Abraham wrote in a letter to the Indian government, “unlike human performers, animals are forced to entertain through the use of fear, pain or hunger”; he urged officials to make the compassionate choice.
PETA India’s findings will be forwarded to the country’s Central Zoo Authority for further action. PETA India and Animal Rahat are now seeking to have a complete ban on all animals in circuses because, as PETA points out, “only willing human performers belong in the entertainment industry.”
India has taken a significant step in protecting elephants from lives of abuse and suffering while working against their will in circuses. It is not alone in taking such measures. Austria, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Greece already have laws against using animals in circuses. In England and Wales, a ban on the use of all wild animals in circuses is to occur in 2015, “sparing elephants, camels, zebras, raccoons and reindeer a life of misery, imprisonment, beatings and distressing performances.”
Sadly, as the case of Nosey the elephant ,who has been abused and neglected for years — performing at shows and being forced to give people rides — makes too clear, wild animals are still being forced to appear in traveling circuses throughout the United States. A number of major American circuses have eliminated elephant shows and Los Angeles’ ban on using bull hooks on elephants has been encouraging but such measures are just a start.
India has done the right thing to no longer allow elephants to perform in circuses. The United States must consider a similar law and end the suffering of these endangered, intelligent animals.
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