MUMBAI: Following efforts by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India to ensure animals are not used in election campaigns, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued a new ‘Manual on Model Code of Conduct’, which under the head ‘Use of Animals in Election Process’ advises “The Election Commission has advised the political parties and candidates, to refrain from using any animal for election campaign in any manner.
Even a party, having reserved symbol depicting an animal should not make a live demonstration of that animal in any election campaign of the Party/any of its candidate”. The MCC under ‘Regulation of Road Shows During Elections’ also states “Display of animals in road shows is totally banned.”.
“Election Commission of India and PETA India agree that using animals in election campaigns is unnecessary, archaic and cruel,” said PETA India Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Manilal Valliyate. “Political parties and candidates must stick to eye-catching and creative campaigns that don’t subject animals to frightening, frenetic crowds,” he added.
As PETA India – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” –had written to ECI, State Election Commissions and political parties in the past, during election campaigns and political rallies animals are forced into the middle of screaming crowds, which they would find terrifying. Even worse, these animals are often beaten, whipped, kicked and terrorised while being paraded through the streets and shoved into mobs in which people are shouting and pushing. They are also often forced to carry loads in excess of their physical capacities, denied adequate food and water and can be seriously injured in the mayhem.
Following a PETA India appeal, the ECI had issued a directive in 2012 to all political parties asking them to refrain from using animals for political campaigns. Subsequent to the request from PETA India, that referred to the ECI advisory, many state election commissions, including that of Assam, Mizoram, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh as well as the Andaman and Nicobar islands, have stated that the use of live animals who represent political parties will no longer be allowed in election campaigns in their states. In a 2013 notification, the State Election Commission of Maharashtra prohibited the use of donkeys, bulls, elephants, and cows during election campaigns and also issued instructions to authorities to take strict action against those who violate animal-protection laws.