Stop the torture of India’s temple elephants

    Join us outside the Indian High Commission, London, on 20th April

    to call for an end to the brutal treatment of these elephants

    The elephants used in India’s temples are subjected to extreme practices of torture throughout their lives. These practices are based on inflicting continual pain, injury and maiming without respite, and are in contravention of India’s strong animal welfare laws that forbid causing pain or suffering to any animal. Indian NGOs and advocates are doing crucial work to push for change and an end to the cruelty, and our campaign in the UK shares the same mission and goals. Our aim is to bring widespread attention to the issue as well as garner international support for a direct appeal to India’s leaders.

    We are grateful for the support of Maneka Gandhi, founder of PFA (People for Animals); PETA India; SEW (Society for Elephant Welfare); and WRRC (Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre).

    A lifetime of suffering

    The elephants used in temples are forced to endure unimaginable cruelty and pain throughout their lives. They are denied adequate water, food, shelter and veterinary care. They are paraded beneath the scorching sun on hot tar roads. In order to restrain the gigantic animal the handlers use banned weapons such as bullhooks, and restrain them with heavy shackles around their front and hind ankles. Often the shackles are tightened so severely that they cut through the flesh, causing raw bleeding wounds that are seldom treated. They are forced to run races shackled in chains, with mahouts prodding them with bullhooks and beating them with sticks. They are often forced to stand in the same position 24/7, in their urine and excrement, suffering from foot rot. They are beaten and tortured time and again.  This goes on until they die a miserable and painful death. Senior elephants beyond 60 years of age are purposely neglected and abused, so the owners can make hefty insurance claims.

    The captive elephants, many taken from the wild, often cannot survive the unrelenting neglect and torture. In just the past two years, 46 elephants in Kerala have died – 26 in 2016, and 20 in 2017 – and there have already been deaths this year. They sometimes break free and run amok, unable to take the brutality anymore; sometimes people get killed too in these desperate rampages.

    Temple elephants are not part of any tradition

    The use of elephants in temples and festivals is not part of Indian culture, nor do Hindu scriptures anywhere say that elephants should be used in temple rituals. On the contrary, the brutal treatment of these elephants goes against the core beliefs of Hinduism. How are these two things reconciled? They’re not. Temple elephants have nothing to do with tradition but everything to do with money and greed and maintaining the status quo. They are seen only as commodities, earning huge sums of money for their owners and the temples. 

    Temples in India are mainly run by devaswom boards appointed by the state government, which has a large stake in the money that temples make. In Kerala, four devaswoms manage nearly 3,000 temples, all under government control; each temple earns the government many millions of rupees. The temples are nothing more than a money-generating, lucrative business portal for the Kerala government.

    Exploited under the veneer of culture and religion, elephants are big business. Everyone, from the chief minister downwards, has a stake in the multi-million dollar elephant business.

    The terrible suffering of these elephants is arguably the worst case of animal abuse in the world. And it never stops, until the broken creature is finally released by death. How can a country whose laws forbid causing pain and suffering to any animal turn a blind eye to this? Why does the government allow these practices to continue?  



    We will be protesting outside the Indian High Commission, London

    on Friday 20th April, 12pm–2pm


    Please follow our Facebook event page for details and updates.


    This video gives an idea of how Kerala’s temple elephants are routinely treated. This elephant is being punished for not raising its head high enough.


    In this video a mahout tortures a temple elephant at Thrissur.


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