Animal rights campaigners alleged that the Animal Welfare Board of India experts had been blocked from examining the jumbos, paraded at the famous Thrissur Pooram festival which began on Sunday, amid strict guidelines for its conduct. As many as 79 elephants are being tortured by making the pachyderms stand in direct sunlight as part of the 36-hour-long festival, they said.
A team of six veterinarians, appointed by AWBI, were collectively prevented by officials of state Animal Husbandry and Forest Departments along with Thrissur district collector and police on Saturday, V K Venkitachalam, secretary of Heritage Animal Task Force, a Thrissur-based animal rights forum, alleged.
Citing the issues, he sent a letter to the Director, Project Elephant, under the Union government, demanding action against the officials for misuse of power. In the letter, he said the Supreme Court had ordered the Kerala government to reconstitute the district level elephant monitoring committee chaired by the Collector by adding a new member nominated by AWBI for each district in Kerala.
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The apex court had also reiterated that any elephant parade in each district must be approved by such a newly constituted district level elephant monitoring committee, the letter, which was released to the media, said. “But yesterday, with the tacit support of Thrissur district Collector, the veterinary doctors appointed by AWBI were prevented from inspecting the health conditions of the elephants,” it said.
“This type of blatant misuse of official power by the collector must be inquired in detail and such violations must be penalised at the earliest,” it added.
PETA India, another animal rights campaigner, also came out against the alleged act of not permitting AWBI experts to examine the health status of jumbos. “The non-cooperation of the Kerala government shows that the only way to ensure the alleviation of suffering of captive elephants in the state is to ban their use, remove them from captivity and to send them to sanctuaries where they can live out their lives in peace unchained,” PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs Dr Manilal Valliyate said in a release.
The famous Thrissur Pooram festival began amid tight security in the light of the Kollam temple tragedy and strict guidelines issued by the Kerala High Court for its conduct.