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CZA calls for stopping animal cruelty in circuses

The Hindu
New Delhi
28 Feb 2017

Requests State forest departments to cancel ownership certificates of circuses with elephants

The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has said it ‘fully supports’ the proposal to stop use of elephants in circus shows. The government body has written to the Animal Welfare Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) in this regard.

The communication assumes greater significance in the context of a movement started by schoolchildren, who met Secretary (MoEF & CC) Ajay Narayan Jha earlier this week.

The students shared with him 1,000 postcards signed by children from across India, requesting him to put a stop to animal performances in circuses.

Animal abuse highlighted

Meenu, the leader of the student delegation, said: “I talked about my experience of visiting a circus in Noida last year. I saw the animals being abused with whips, sticks and sharp instruments to force them to perform tricks.

Backstage, I saw dogs in small rusted cages, some birds without feathers and wounded horses. My friends have had similar experiences. We do not consider this as entertainment. We also delivered 1,000 handwritten postcards from children from different cities, asking for this abuse to be stopped. Mr. Jha assured us that he would take steps to ensure animals don’t suffer in circuses,” she said.

In its letter, the CZA said it had been monitoring circuses since 2003, and that it had de-recognised all but one due to the cruel treatment meted out to animals and violation of rules under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Message to AWBI

The CZA has now recommended stopping use of elephants in circuses as its ambit is only wild animals. Further, it has requested the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), which regulates the use of all other animals in performance, to take similar action.

The CZA has also requested the State forest departments to cancel ownership certificates of circuses with elephants and rehabilitate the animals.

The decision has paved the way for what can probably be the country’s most systematic rehabilitation of captive elephants.

Also, it is in line with the international trend as part of which the famous Ringling Brothers circus recently retired all elephants.

The agency has also asked the Ministry to involve the AWBI and Project Elephant. “This is the most progressive move so far by any government body to ensure effective protection of a Schedule 1 species that continues to suffer in the hands of human ‘owners’. We are delighted with the CZA’s decision to write to the MoEF&CC about stopping the elephant performances in circuses. There have been numerous official inspection reports and notices that documented illegalities and cruelty in circuses. It is about time consideration is given to put an end to this extreme form of animal abuse,” said Arpan Sharma, director of FIAPO, an animal rights organisation.