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Based on a comprehensive study regarding the use of elephants in circuses, temple festivals, and joy rides, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) issued an advisory recommending that the government ban the training, exhibition, and use of elephants for performances in India.
Over the years, AWBI-authorised inspections of circuses and tourist attractions which use elephants have exposed the same disturbing scene: elephants are beaten into submission, denied proper veterinary care, commonly starved and dehydrated, forced to stand among their own faeces for long hours, and shackled when they're not being forced to perform. They've also been observed suffering from visual impairment, swollen joints, gangrene of the tail, torn ears from sharp torture devices, foot rot, cracked nails, and obesity as a result of being chained for as long as 22 hours a day.
Elephants forced to give joyrides fare no better: trainers routinely beat and jab them with iron-tipped wooden sticks, spiked chains, and ankuses (rods with a sharp metal hook on one end) and even pierce their sensitive ears and drill holes into their tusks. Even elephants who are visually impaired or injured are forced to carry people under the blazing sun.
Elephants stuck in temples are frequently controlled through beatings, denied veterinary care, and fed unsuitable food. Many show signs of severe psychological distress – such as swaying, head-bobbing, and weaving – behaviour not found in healthy elephants in nature.
Even though The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, prohibits capturing elephants, these sacred animals are torn away from their families in nature and beaten into submission. Most of the elephants in India are being held illegally, since their custody has been transferred illegally between people and they've been transported to a different state, as revealed by AWBI inspections and the reports of state forest departments.
Elephants are highly social animals who spend their entire lives with their families in nature. They can walk up to 50 kilometres per day to forage for food, work together to solve problems, and rely on the wisdom, judgement, and experience of their eldest relatives.
It's time to protect India's heritage animal and put an end to inhumane elephant rides and illegal captivity. You can help by sending a message to the minister of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying and the minister of environment, forests & climate change.