A few days ago, after a photo of an elephant and her calf running and screaming for their lives after an angry mob in West Bengal hurled fireballs at them came to light, we had one question – ‘is humanity still alive?’. The cruel and blood-boiling picture had drawn flak from all corners but it took an outsider to point out the plight of elephants and animal abuse. Academy Award-winning actress, Angelica Huston, has sent a letter to the tourism ministry on behalf of animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) urging a ban on elephant rides.
The acclaimed actress has starred in The Darjeeling Limited released in 2007, which was mostly shot in Rajasthan, where elephant rides are popular, especially around Amer Fort.
Distressed by the picture, she wrote a letter to India’s Tourism Ministry stating,
As much as I was enchanted by India when we filmed The Darjeeling Limited there, I am haunted now by the image of a mother elephant and her calf – fleeing, screaming, from a mob hurling fiery tar balls at them in West Bengal.
Huston, who was PETA US’ Person of the Year in 2012, while appealing to stop animal abuse, said,
Ban the use of elephants for rides, move rescued elephants to sanctuaries, and empower those in the hideous elephant-abuse business to take up more upstanding professions.
Huston, who is an animal right activist, had also supported legislation to phase out New York’s archaic horse-drawn carriage industry. She had sent a letter to the Irish government, urging the country to honour its commitment to banning fur farms.
Interestingly or rather sadly, the picture showing two elephants running for their lives won the contest run by Sanctuary Asia wildlife magazine. Even while announcing the award the magazine had said that ‘this sort of humiliation… is routine’. The photo was taken by Biplab Hazra in the Bankura district of West Bengal and was titled as “Hell Is Here”.
In an everyday practice, villagers often use violent means likes burning firecrackers to drive away elephant herds when they raid crops. It is mostly seen at elephant corridors across the country in states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Odisha.
For a long time, elephant rides have been a topic of debate in the Indian tourism industry. Earlier in 2005, elephant rides at the Amer Fort were banned by Rajasthan’s tourism department after they killed a guide and injured two foreign tourists as they were not being taken care of adequately.
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