India: Government to Allow Animals to Perform in Religious Events

India Animal Religious Events

The performance of animals in religious, cultural and social events in India may no longer be banned as the environment ministry has been considering the revision of a former Supreme Court ruling that barred animals from performing in religious festivals as well as sporting events.

Environment minister Prakash Javadekar recently spoke about the possibility of amending the existing law that would allow animals like elephants and bulls to perform in religious and sporting events respectively.

“If age-old traditions of the country face hurdles because of the law, then we would try to amend them,” Javadekar said while promising to lift a ban on Jallikattu.

Jallikattu is a bull-taming sport that is played in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as part of its traditional pongal celebrations. Last year, the Supreme Court banned the sport on grounds of animal welfare.

With his latest announcement, Javadekar made it evident that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led  center cares little about animal welfare and more about its political gains, as it hopes that such a move would help strengthen its foothold in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where it has not yet succeeded in forming a majority.

The environment ministry has already informed Kerala’s state government that it can make use of elephants, as performing animals are defined as those that are used for the purpose of entertainment, such as in films or equestrian events to which the public is admitted.

Gauri Maulekhi, a representative of People for Animals, said even cultural and religious events are public events and thus elephants are covered under the same rules that apply to performing animals. She accused the center of circumventing a Supreme Court ruling related to the performance of animals.

As a matter of fact, the current law was implemented in 2001 when BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government was last in power. Those rules required registration of all performing animals and inspection by Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body that was set up under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

According to government officials, the board refused to relax the rules for performing elephants earlier this year after citing the physical and mental torture that they are often subjected to during religious festivals. The officials also said that certain relaxations would soon be made to allow the performance of other animals, such a bulls, in rural sporting events.

A senior government functionary said, “The work of over a decade in animal protection will be lost if the proposal gets the government nod.”

While bullock cart races are a popular sport in states like Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra, bull taming is common in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Photo Credits: The Indian Mirror

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