A Hindu woman gives money to an elephant outside the Lord Jagannath temple ahead of the annual Rath Yatra, or chariot procession, in Ahmedabad, India, July 16, 2015. The annual religious procession commemorates a journey by Hindu god Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, in specially made chariots. The annual Rath Yatra is celebrated on July 18. REUTERS/Amit Dave
A government advisory body has pitched for a complete ban on animals in circuses and suitable changes in legislation, saying the existing regulations are "unworkable" and ineffective in ending the "institutionalised cruelty" to animals.
The chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), has written to the Ministry of Environment for a ban while observing that as many as 11 circuses are performing in the country without mandatory permission.
"It is the AWBI's considered opinion that the time has come for the government to bring an end to the use of animals in circuses and to make suitable changes in the legislation that prevents the use of animals in circus entertainment," AWBI chairman M Ravikumar has written.
The letter dated June 6, mentioned that as per the available records, around two hundred animals and birds are performing in circuses. There has been no response from the ministry to his communication as of now, Ravikumar told PTI.
The AWBI has, since 2014, suspended the performing animals' registration of 16 circuses and cancelled the registration of 10.
Ravikumar, in his letter, detailed the cruelty meted out to animals, including the regular use of banned tools like bull hooks on elephants, beating with sticks, whipping, poking with scrap metal rods, which he said has resulted in them showing "signs of physical and psychological trauma".
The stocks of animals with circuses keeps changing repeatedly, without intimation to the AWBI, the letter said, which also mentions the death of animals and their use for illegal breeding and trade.
"It has been clearly shown that not only is the current regulatory framework unworkable, there are virtually no cases where circuses have met all required criteria for keeping animals. Further, a large number of circuses have been detected to be operating entirely without regulatory permits.
"In view of the above, it is requested to consider the welfare of animals a priority and pass this strong legislation which is vital to end institutionalised cruelty to animals in circuses," Ravikumar wrote.
AWBI is a statutory body under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, for the promotion of animal welfare and prevention of pain and suffering to animals.
Animal rights activists welcomed the AWBI recommendation and appealed to the Environment Ministry to bring the necessary changes.
Arpan Sharma of the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), an umbrella body of welfare forums, said the observation is relevant and timely.
"Coming from the agency who is in charge of circus animal regulation, it is the most credible and comprehensive paper advocating end to animal circuses. It observes that the process of training animals to perform unnatural tricks is inherently abusive, as shown in numerous inspection reports," he said.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001, and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, currently form the regulatory framework to prevent cruelty against animals.