End Circus Cruelty!

New Delhi, 23rd February 2017: In a major development, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has written to the Animal Welfare Division of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF&CC), saying that it ‘fully supports’ the proposal to stop use of elephants to perform in circuses.This decision holds furthermore significance in the context of a movement by school children, under which they met the Secretary (MoEF&CC), Mr. Ajay Narayan Jha yesterday and shared with him 1000 postcards, signed by children from across India, requesting for an end to animal circuses.

In its letter, CZA has said that it has been monitoring circuses since 2003, and that it has de-recognized all but one circus previously recognized by it due to extreme cruelty and owing to violation of rules under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. As the CZA’s ambit is only wild animals, it has recommended the stoppage of using elephants in circuses. Furthermore, it has requested the Animal Welfare Board of India, which regulates the use of all other animals in performance, to take similar action.

Additionally, the CZA has also requested the state forest departments to cancel the ownership certificates and rehabilitate elephants in possession of circuses that it had earlier de-recognized.

CZA’s decision is in agreement with the claims of many NGOs that circuses animals are mistreated and abused. This move has paved the way for what can probably be the country’s most systematic rehabilitation of captive elephants in circuses and is in line with the trend internationally, where the world famous Ringling Brothers circus retired all their elephants recently. The agency has asked the ministry to involve the AWBI and Project Elephant to more actively participate in the process.

“This is the most progressive move so far by any government body in ensuring the effective protection of a schedule 1 species which continues to suffer in the hands of its human ‘owners’. We are delighted at CZA’s decision to write to MoEF&CC, to stop the use of elephants to perform in circuses. There have been numerous official inspection reports and notices, documenting widespread illegalities and cruelty in circuses and it is about time consideration is given to put an end to this extreme form of animal abuse.” Said Arpan Sharma, Director, FIAPO

“I am thrilled to have met the Secretary Mr. Jha and IG Mr. SoumitraDasgupta. I shared with them my experience of visiting a circus in Noida last year, where I saw animals being abused and forced, with whips, sticks and sharp instruments, to perform tricks for the audience. Backstage, I saw that the dogs were living in small rusted cages, some birds had lost all feathers, and I could see all the wounds on the horses. My friends have had similar experiences too and wedo not consider this as entertainment. We also delivered 1000 handwritten postcards from children of my age from different cities asking for stoppage of this abuse. Mr. Jha assured us that he will take steps to ensure animals don’t continue to suffer in circuses,” said Meenu, the leader of the student delegation.

Inspection reports by government veterinarians and experts had put welfare of animals as of paramount importance in circuses. Involvement of the Project Elephant and state forest departments will mean that the ownership of rehabilitated elephants will be with the state with no scope for vested interests to use them for personal gain.

Date : 24 Feb 2017