CHENNAI: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has advised political parties not to use animals for campaigning. It has issued a new ‘Manual on Model Code of Conduct’ (MCC) which — under the head Use of Animals in Election Process — says, “The Election Commission has advised 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.”
This follows efforts by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India to ensure animals are not used in election campaigns. “Political parties have been using bullock and horse carts, especially in the north, for campaigning. You have candidates sitting atop elephants and donkeys being used to defame other candidates. Parties do all this to give some mileage to their campaign,” says PETA India chief executive officer Dr. Manilal Valliyate. “Political parties and candidates must now stick to eye-catching and creative campaigns that don’t subject animals to frightening, frenetic crowds.”
According to PETA India, animals have been forced into the middle of screaming crowds, during election campaigns and political rallies. These animals are often beaten, whipped, kicked and terrorised while being paraded through the streets and shoved into mobs.
They are also often forced to carry heavy loads in excess of their physical capacities, not given adequate food and water and can be seriously injured in the chaos. “For instance, you can find 10 to 15 people on a bullock cart. But while we have laws that do allow the use of animals for work, people have to follow certain norms and ensure that it doesn’t cause unnecessary suffering,” says Dr. Manilal.
Following a PETA India appeal, the ECI issued a directive in 2012 to all political parties asking them to refrain from using animals for political campaigns. After PETA India’s request, which referred to the ECI advisory, many state election commissions, including that of Assam, Mizoram, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, stated that the use of live animals that represent political parties would no longer be allowed in election campaigns.
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.