People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal (PETA) has asked the Union Government to ban elephants from being exhibited or trained for performances in India. Earlier, the Defence Ministry had prohibited the use of elephants during the Republic Day Parade. PETA India has sent a letter to the Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Giriraj Singh requesting that elephants be added to the list of wild animals banned from being exhibited or trained for performances in India.
In 1998, the central government banned the use of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions as performing animals. However, elephants, although protected under Schedule I of The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, are excluded from this list.
In 2008, based on the recommendations of the Wildlife Institute of India and the National Zoological Park, New Delhi, the Ministry of Defence decided to prohibit the use of elephants during the Republic Day parade.
It concluded that there are serious safety concerns associated with the risk that frustrated elephants could become violent and that uncertainties exist regarding the legality of their ownership.
Consequently, since 2009, the central government has instead used decorated military jeeps to carry children who have won National Bravery Award during the parade. In its letter to Giriraj Singh, PETA India points out that the same concerns are relevant to the use of elephants in circuses, for events, and for "joy rides".
"The government of India has been honouring elephants in the best way possible by refusing to allow their use during Republic Day parades," said PETA India CEO and veterinarian Dr Manilal Valliyate.
"It's high time we unshackled these representations of Lord Ganesha and allowed them to live free, as nature intended. Banning their use in performances would bring us closer to that goal."
Based on a detailed study that highlighted the suffering endured by captive elephants in India, in 2016 the Animal Welfare Board of India, a government advisory body, recommended that the central government ban the exhibition and training of elephants for performances. In 2010, the government declared elephants a National Heritage Animal in order to strengthen measures to protect them.
(With inputs from IANS)