Circuses without animal antics may be a new order

Circuses without animal antics may be a new order

The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has recommended prohibition of all animal performances in circuses.

It has also sought immediate end to elephant performances and rehabilitation of the pachyderms in reserve forests.

The AWBI suggested disallowing any new animal acts and new circuses that used animals. Both recommendations were made to the Central Zoo Authority, under the ministry of environment and forests that regulates circuses across the country.

“Condition of animals in most of the circuses is pathetic. They have no veterinary doctors. Animals are kept in small cages. Wings of birds are clipped. Animals are beaten regularly. The environment is cruel to animals,” S Chinny Krishna, vice chairman of AWBI told Deccan Herald over the phone from Chennai.

The board's recommendations are based on an investigation by two non-government organisations, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA),and Animal Rahat, authorised by AWBI between November 2012 and July 2013. A four-member inspection team comprising three veterinary doctors visited 16 licensed circuses to check the condition of animals. As many as 15 circuses were using animals and Great Champion Circus was the sole exception.

The inspectors found rampant use of weapons like iron hooks with knife-like ends (ankush), whips, clubs and sticks to force the animal to perform. The ill, wounded and diseased animals are denied veterinary care.

“We have seen circuses where dogs with wounds were not given treatment and made to perform. Animal houses are in poor condition; most of the animal-keep guidelines by the CZA are not followed,” said Manilal Valliyate, a veterinary doctor from PETA, who was one of the inspectors.

As CZA prohibits using lion, tiger, bear, panther, monkey and wolves in circuses, circus-owners use mostly elephants, camels, horses, dogs and birds to amuse the spectators.

The first thing would be to stop using elephants in accordance with a 2009 circular, which said all circus elephants had to be rehabilitated in a sanctuary or reserve forests, Valliyate said. There are 44 elephants in 16 circuses, many of whom are not even registered with the AWBI.

The inspection found elephants in a miserable condition, being forced to perform despite their wounds, often caused by the iron hook or metal tipped sticks. Blind elephants, too, are made to perform. “Because of the treatment they receive, many of them display abnormal behaviour, putting the spectators at risk,” he said.

Reacting to the investigation, Ajay Shankar, a management official from Gemini Circus told Deccan Herald: “None of the PETA people came to our circuses. In any case PETA investigation will be biased as they are against use of animals everywhere.”
Asked why PETA was chosen for the inspection, Prakash said since AWBI had less than 25 employees across the country, it sought PETA help and has complete confidence in the inspectors.

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