action for elepahtns Uk

    18 April 2018

    Dear Prime Minister Modi,

    We write to you today to seek your help in putting an end to the unlawful violence and cruelty practised towards India’s temple elephants. As you may know, Indian NGOs and conservationists have been pursuing this cause in many campaigns and petitions to the courts, and our aim with this letter is to add voices of international support for their work and to strengthen the call for change.

    Asian elephants are an endangered species, listed on CITES Appendix 1, which calls for countries with wild elephant populations to do all they can to protect them and ensure their survival. But, although the practice is illegal, elephants continue to be taken from the wild for use in temples, and once they are captive they are subjected to the worst forms of abuse and deprivation for their entire lives. Although elephants have been revered in India’s culture and religion for millennia, today these last giants of the Earth are treated as no more than commodities, to be used and exploited for financial gain until they wear out. They live in the worst imaginable conditions, chained on the spot and unable to move or lie down, and suffer illness, mutilation and disease without mercy or respite (and are given no veterinary care or relief from pain). The elephants’ owners, the temple boards, corrupt officials and criminal rackets all have a stake in the lucrative elephant business. Yet nothing can explain or justify the severity of the cruelty inflicted on them.

    ‘Where in the world is the elephant worst treated? The honest and straight answer is Kerala,’ said Kerala-born author Paul Zacharia in 2010 – and Kerala still bears this damning reputation. With over 420 captive elephants, the most of any state, Kerala is ground zero for elephant torture. The word ‘torture’ is not used lightly: methods used by mahouts include beating the shackled animal over and over; inflicting pain with bull-hooks, whips, sticks, fire and other instruments of torture; maiming the animals, including blinding them and tearing their ears, tails and other body parts; starving the elephants and depriving them of basic needs; forcing them to endure excruciating pain when being paraded, and many more abuses. The male elephants in particular are subjected to the most ferocious and violent beatings during Ketti Azhikkal, when drunken mahouts beat the chained elephant for 48 to 72 hours straight. Male elephants are forced to undergo this every year when they emerge from musth.

    All of these practices are forbidden by law. India has two excellent laws for animals, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 (which forbids ‘Beating, Kicking, Over-riding, Over-driving, Over-loading, Torturing, Causing unnecessary pain or suffering to any animals’) and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Additionally, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have Captive Elephant Management Rules, and there are multiple government orders, notifications, and court orders that grant relief to the elephants. These are among the best animal welfare laws in the world, but lack enforcement.

    Prime Minister, if these existing laws were to be enforced by government, police and the courts, the brutal practices would come to an end. That is the most critical first step. An overhaul of the existing mahout training programme would ensure that mahouts are trained only in methods of positive reinforcement, a chain-free environment, and other humane reforms. Re-education and retraining for mahouts would bring with it opportunities for advancement in new ways of managing elephants. Some mahouts themselves have expressed unhappiness with the current methods of cruelty, and would welcome change wholeheartedly.

    While we urge you to consider immediate measures to enforce the laws and stop the cruel abuse of these elephants, the end goal is to see the use of elephants in temples phased out altogether. In this day and age, when we have gained so much knowledge about the intelligence, emotional capacity, and social bonds of these majestic creatures, and when we know how endangered they are, we believe that all countries have a duty to protect them, treat them humanely, and give them sanctuary.
    Two temples in Kerala have shown the way forward and banned the use of elephants in rituals, saying they would use wooden Jeevathas instead to carry the idols. Hopefully their example will be followed by other temples.

    It is notable that in making its decision to ban the use of elephants, the devaswom of Nalpathenneeswaram Sree Mahadeva temple cited reasons of public safety – an acknowledgement of the rise in human fatalities caused by the use of elephants in public places. Hundreds of mahouts have been killed or injured by temple elephants who have run amok. Wildlife authorities have warned that fatal accidents of this kind are increasing and have become a growing threat to public life.

    Elephant deaths are sharply on the rise too. In Kerala alone, 57 elephants have died in just 26 months, and the rate has escalated this year: as of end-March, 11 elephants have died. The cause of death of many of these elephants was found to be blocked intestines, caused by the unsuitable diet they are fed, and they would have been in extreme pain for weeks or months before they died. They suffer from many other illnesses, due to the lack of proper care, their chained immobility, and the constant beatings inflicted on them. For each unnatural death, a government enquiry should be held by law, but not a single arrest or punishment of the owner has ever happened. Proper ownership documents, required by law, are rare for Kerala’s elephants. Owners and mahouts flout the rules and protocols with impunity – and with elephant deaths rising, it seems that the treatment of them is only getting worse.

    Finally, but crucially for India’s future, how will the abuse of temple and other captive elephants impact on tourism? India has one of the world’s fastest growing tourism sectors, with a projected annual growth rate of 6.8% over the next decade to reach 10% of GDP by 2027. No other country can match the richness of culture and diversity of experience that India has to offer, and this will increase greatly as ecotourism and rural tourism continue to be developed. The trends are clear: more and more, visitors seeking wildlife experiences are making ethical choices and rejecting those that cause suffering to the animals. Visitors want to see elephants in a natural setting, where the animals can roam freely and are treated humanely, rather than ride on their backs or watch them perform under duress. In Thailand we are seeing pioneering changes in this direction, with former elephant trekking camps successfully converting to a saddle-free, chain-free model of tourism – hooks, saddles and shackles are being consigned to history forever.

    In this wide sweep of change, India is positioned to take a global lead in ethical wildlife tourism. This is the time to overhaul the whole system of using live elephants in temples and to build a new, secure, and humane future for all of India’s captive elephants. From small camps where elephants can roam freely, to safari explorations of India’s rich natural world and species, new models of ethical elephant tourism are the way of the future. But as long as the current system of cruelty is allowed to continue, the more it will negatively impact India’s tourism and tarnish India’s reputation and image in the world. Indian citizens from all walks of life, from conservationists to spiritual leaders to Bollywood stars, are calling for change, as are more and more voices in the international community.

    We now appeal to you directly, Prime Minister, in the hope that you will judge this matter with wisdom and compassion, and will see it not only as a terrible injustice and evil that needs correcting, but as an affront to your great nation and the international respect and admiration it merits.


    Maria Mossman
    Action for Elephants UK

    And the undersigned:

    Erika Abrams
    President, Animal Aid Unlimited

    Amala Akkineni
    Actress, Animal Welfare Activist
    Nari Shakti Puraskar Award recipient

    Jane Alexandra and Louise Ravula
    Co-Founders, Two Million Tusks UK

    Rosemary Alles
    Co-founder, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos (GMFER)

    Director of Sales and Marketing, Namaste Tour Pvt Ltd

    Virginia Bell
    President, Catholics for Animals

    Akeeramon Kalidas Bhattathirippad
    Hindu Tantric Scholar & Priest

    Scott Blais
    Co-founder, Global Sanctuary for Elephants

    Karen Botha
    CEO, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

    Carol Buckley
    Founder, Elephant Aid International

    Nicky Campbell
    Radio/TV presenter and journalist

    Jilly Cooper

    Jan Creamer
    President, Animal Defenders International

    Brian da Cal
    Country Director, Four Paws UK

    Lakshmi Devi
    Executive Director, Abhaya, Thiruvananthapuram

    Rob Faber
    President, Friends of the Elephants – Vrienden van de Olifant

    Toni Frohoff, Ph.D.
    Elephant Scientist, In Defense of Animals

    Ruth Ganesh
    Trustee and former CEO, Elephant Family

    Suparna Ganguly
    Founder & Trustee, Compassion Unlimited Plus (CUPA)
    Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (WRRC)
    Nari Shakti Puraskar Award recipient

    Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE
    Founder – the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

    Ranjini Haridas
    Trustee, Humanity for Animals Cochin, Kerala

    Advocate Hariraj M.R.
    Trustee, Voice for Asian Elephants Trust, Kochi, Kerala
    Heike Henderson-Altenstein
    Co-founder, Future for Elephants e.V.

    Chitra Iyer
    Founder-Trustee, SEW (Society for Elephant Welfare), Kerala

    Sangita Iyer
    Founding Executive Director of Voice for Asian Elephants Society,
    Nari Shakti Puraskar Award recipient

    Stanley Johnson
    Author and Co-Chairman, Environmentalists for Europe
    Board Member, Save The Asian Elephants

    Brigitte Uttar Kornetzky
    Ambassador for Captive Elephants, FIAPO, India
    President and Founder Elefanten in Not/Elephants in Need-Charity
    Director, ‘Where the Elephant Sleeps’

    Dilip D. Khatau
    Chairman, The Corbett Foundation

    Alan Knight OBE
    Chief Executive, International Animal Rescue

    Laurene K. Knowles
    Founder, President Elemotion Foundation

    Dr. Nanditha Krishna
    Writer, environmentalist and historian; author, ‘Sacred Animals of India’

    Dr. S. Chinny Krishna
    Former Vice Chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India

    Janani Krishnamurthy
    Hon. Animal Welfare Officer
    Co-Founder Kodaikanal Society for Protection and Care for Animals (KSPCA)
    Member of Palani Hills Conservation Council

    Rajeev N Kurup
    Honorary Animal Welfare Officer/Secretary SEW, Kerala.

    Joanna Lumley

    Dr. A.K. Malhotra
    Founder and Trustee, SAI (Save Animals Initiative) Sanctuary Trust

    Ravi Manian (Elephant Advocate)
    IT Business Analyst, 20th Century Fox, Australia

    Niall McCann and Mark Hiley
    Co-founders, National Park Rescue, Zimbabwe

    Virginia McKenna
    Founder, Born Free Foundation

    Duncan McNair
    CEO, Save The Asian Elephants (STAE)

    Varda Mehrotra
    Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO)

    Timeri N Murari
    Writer, playwright, filmmaker and animal activist

    Ganesh Nayak
    Founder & Chairman, Animals Matter To Me (AMTM)

    Edward Norton
    Filmmaker and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity

    Michael Palin CBE FRGS

    Martin Polden, OBE
    Co-vice president, Environmental Law Foundation

    Ian Redmond OBE
    Independent Wildlife Biologist; co-founder of Elefriends campaign (1989); Ambassador
    for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species

    Dan Richardson
    Actor and conservationist

    Jill Robinson MBE
    Founder, Animals Asia

    Ridhi Sahni
    Program Analyst, United Nations Women

    Dr. Nandita Shah
    Founder, Director & Trustee, SHARAN
    Nari Shakti Puraskar Award recipient

    Nitin, Arun and Milan Shah
    Co-founders, Pepe Jeans

    William Shatner

    Talvin Singh, OBE
    Music Composer

    Sadhwi Sondhi
    President, Red Paws Rescue

    Smt. Sugathakumari
    Poet, author & environmentalist
    Padma Shree Award recipient

    Anneka Svenska
    Wildlife presenter and conservationist

    Yvette Taylor
    Executive Director, Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization

    Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
    Journalist, author, publisher and film-maker based in India

    Will Travers OBE
    President, Born Free Foundation

    Sir William Mark Tully KBE
    Journalist, Former Bureau Chief of the BBC, New Delhi

    Mrs. Janki Vasant
    Founder, Samvedana

    V.K. Venkitachalam
    Secretary, Heritage Animal Task Force

    Eileen Weintraub
    Founding Director, Help Animals India

    Belinda Wright, OBE
    Executive Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India

    UK members of Parliament

    Sir David Amess
    Southend West (Con)

    Clive Betts
    Sheffield South East (Lab)

    Roberta Blackman-Woods
    City of Durham (Lab)

    Alan Brown
    Kilmarnock and Loudoun (SNP)

    Nick Brown
    Newcastle upon Tyne East (Lab)

    Lisa Cameron
    East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (SNP)

    Alistair Carmichael
    Orkney and Shetland (LibDem)

    Sarah Champion
    Rotherham (Lab)

    Vernon Coaker
    Gedling (Lab)

    Anneliese Dodds
    Oxford East (Lab Co-op)

    Jim Fitzpatrick
    Poplar and Limehouse (Lab)

    Zac Goldsmith
    Richmond Park and Kingston North (Con)

    David Hanson
    Delyn (Lab)

    Sue Hayman
    Workington (Lab)

    Kelvin Hopkins
    Luton North (Ind)

    Sandy Martin
    Ipswich (Lab)

    Kerry McCarthy
    Bristol East (Lab)

    Grahame Morris
    Easington (Lab)

    John Penrose
    Weston-super-Mare (Con)

    Tommy Sheppard
    Edinburgh East (SNP)

    Chris Williamson
    Derby North (Lab)

    UK House of Lords

    Lord Desai

    Lord Navnit Dholakia PC, OBE, DL

    Baroness Jones of Moulescoomb

    Lord Judd

    Baroness Lister of Burtersett

    The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith
    Bishop of St Albans

    Lord Stoddart of Swindon

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