Using elephants for school parades Are we being human?

Published : 10:12 am  February 9, 2016 | No comments so far |  |  (330) reads | 

ompassion for all beings is a message which is conveyed by all religions to the society for every living being on this earth has a right to live. Not only human beings; animals as well.  

From the ancient times, human beings and animals have been living in peace and harmony and people used to love and take care of them as if they were part of their own family. In the early days  people such as farmers who raised cattle and ploughed the fields took care of the animal that was not only helping them to earn their daily bread,  but also to make them understand the true meaning of compassion. With the change of society things turned over, and rather than having compassion or respect for any living being people were interested in their own benefits  and had no time to think of others including animals. With the change of society, human and social values have also changed, greed and selfishness took over.    

 

"Tied up in chains, the mahouts pricking them with the henduwa , gives a pathetic sight, making any animal lover feel the pain"



 According to Hinduism, the cow is revered as a sacred animal. While some animals are known as symbols of pride and respect that represents the identity of the particular country.   

In Sri Lanka, the elephant is an animal that is widely respected mostly among Buddhists for the reputation and respect it had earned throughout generations for carrying the sacred tooth relic. Moreover, the elephant has played a major role in wars during ancient times. In any pageant, be it the Kandy  Esala Perahera or any other  pageant, this majestic animal earns the respect and love of all people and is used as a symbol to represent the pride and the heritage of our Motherland.  But sadly, the statistics show that the number of elephants are becoming less every day due to the human – elephant conflict and also poaching of wild elephants for their tusks and other activities.

 Beyond doubt, the pachyderm adds glamour to any occasion. But there is a question whether the elephant is being used more as an entertainment object to please amused and interested onlookers.  Since of late, there is a trend of using elephants in school pageants to add more colour.  Apart from entertainment, this implies a question whether the animal is being tortured and harassed to provide entertainment.  Tied up in chains, the mahouts pricking them with the henduwa , gives a pathetic sight, making any animal lover feel the pain.  

 

 

"Considering all these facts, it gives a lot to think about, and make us reconsider whether we are really being human and living up to the expectation of being compassionate to all living beings. Children are the future of our country and should be encouraged to understand the suffering of other living beings.  The society itself has a responsibility to think beyond personal gains and spare some time for other living beings, because they too have a right to live and enjoy the freedom.  It is a responsibility which will be very essential in the long run and for many more years

 to come."

 



To make matters even worse, schoolchildren in these pageants light up crackers which are harmful to the elephants and also to those around sure to frighten the animal, that would end up probably in a bad commotion.   Are teachers doing a wise thing by encouraging these children to ill treat animals, without teaching them to be compassionate, not to harass or misuse an innocent creature for their own pleasure? Religion itself asks us to be compassionate to all living beings. But are we really being humans to these poor creatures that deserve their freedom and right to live peacefully? From bicycle parades, motorcades and street processions, is the next step going to be elephant parades?

We asked several animal rights activists and enthusiasts to express their opinion about the matter.

who is advocating for a change in how we treat our animals.

 “Some schools have decided to start using elephants in their parades and I am not sure why. Children should be taught about the suffering these animals go through for our entertainment and educated on the changes that are happening world over rather than being allowed to be a part of the cruelty.  Education of the heart is as important as education of the mind and I hope the Education ministry and school principals will act, to bring an end to this new trend. It is certainly not glamorous for any school to have an elephant in their parade. Our children have so much within themselves to make these events a success without having an animal that lives its life in chains being used for entertainment”

"Children should be taught about the suffering these animals go through for our entertainment and educated on the changes that are happening world over rather than being allowed to be a part of the cruelty"

President of the Animal Welfare Association,  says that she too  totally opposes it.   “It is totally inhuman.  I am totally against animals being used in schools parades.  When they are tied up in chains, their chains get tightened and that causes sore wounds.   When they light up fireworks or crackers the animal gets frightened and might even turn violent. It is harmful to the animal as well as the people around.  They should be more sensible.   One small mistake can lead to a huge commotion and destruction.  

 

" If the elephant becomes violent, it might even kill the people around it. When there is no other option, the animal might even be shot at."



If the elephant becomes violent, it might even kill the people around it. When there is no other option, the animal might even be shot at.  And basically, it’s not the fault of the animal, but senseless human activities are responsible for this.  So people should think seriously about it”.  

Attorney- at-Law and Animal Rights Activist in a statement says thus, 

Parading elephants is fun for people, but certainly not for the animal.  Recently we have witnessed elephants participating in some school parades, especially during their “Big Match” rivalry.

When using elephants for these parades, there are two aspects of concern – the cruelty caused to the animal and the high public safety risk.

Looking at the cruelty aspect, these majestic animals that are a part of our proud heritage are heavily chained and forced to walk in the scorching sun on hot, burning asphalted roads. This causes great pain and suffering to the animal and is a violation of our Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance.  Then, it has to be trained for performances – even parading is a performance.  Training methods are often cruel with the elephant being shocked, whipped and beaten with the bull hook.

 

"Perhaps the Principals of schools or the Education Ministry can ban the use of elephants in school events, especially in parades, thus preventing irreversible tragic consequences."



As for the risk factor, elephants essentially belong to the wilds and according to experts, however well-trained they are, they are unpredictable.  When stressed they can strike back against humans.  Noisy parades with crackers and drums as well as vehicular traffic and crowds can cause this stress and make the animal run amok with tragic consequences both to human and animal.  During parades, there are no barriers between the animal and the public to prevent such tragedies.  In Sri Lanka, in the past, we have seen such tragedies occur during pageants where people have been killed or injured and property damaged.  Such lamentable incidents have occurred elsewhere in the world too. In some countries there are laws that require a licence to parade elephants along public streets. A lesser-known factor is that pachyderms are common carriers of TB and can transmit the disease to humans.

Perhaps the Principals of schools or the Education Ministry can ban the use of elephants in school events, especially in parades, thus preventing irreversible tragic consequences.

A keen animal rights activist and chairperson of the Animal Welfare Trust, about elephants used in school parades. 

‘’ I am totally against to it. We are giving a bad example for the children.  Elephants should be in the wild and should have their freedom.  When elephants are domesticated, they are tranquilized.This is another way of harassing them.   Domesticating elephants has become a normal trend now.   In some higher society, elephants are kept in possession to show their prestige.  We have to give a good example for the future generations, because they get a wrong idea from these and may not know what is kindness and compassion.  In order to get the calf, they kill the mother. 

What a crime? Unfortunately there are no reports of these misdeeds because no one is coming forward to give evidence.  Hotels in Habarana and Sigiriya are using   elephants as a mode of entertainment for tourists.  So there is a lot to think of when it comes to these issues”

 

"When elephants are domesticated, they are tranquilized.  This is another way of harassing them. "

Secretary of the Animal  Protection Trust , gave her passionate  views as thus , 

‘’I am dead against to it.   Those poor elephants are being harassed and tortured for somebody else’s pleasure.  I am even against using elephants in Perahera. They are being dressed up like Christmas trees and all kinds of bulbs are hung around them and the battery being under their costume. Can you just feel the agony they have to go through?  Some of these mahouts are drunk most of the time, and they prick the poor animal with the henduwa. Their legs are chained.  This is totally an inhuman act.  Moreover, they cover the pachyderm’s ears in all these Peraheras and pageants. Keeping their ears uncovered is the only way that they can flap and cool themselves.  Peraheras and pageants are supposed to be for religious aspects and create goodwill.   But how can that be; if the animal is being tortured like that?  What do they gain by it?   Humans have a voice. At least they have the law and order to speak for them.  But animals don’t.   My personal opinion is, even elephants being used in Peraheras should be limited.  With the animal welfare Bill coming up, we are hoping to see some changes. Then these animals may get better care. 

"My personal opinion is, even elephants being used in Peraheras should be limited"