Not all of us may have witnessed animals in circus tricks or used by magicians, but that doesn’t mean “such abuse doesn’t happen”, says internationally acclaimed magician P C Sorcar Junior, who recently became the animal welfare non-profit World Animal Protection’s (WAP) ambassador.
Following in the footsteps of his father Protul Chandra or PC Sorcar, who was credited for taking Indian magic to the world negating preconceived notions of black magic, Sorcar Junior‘s appeal to fellow magicians and illusionists is to stop incorporating not just big animals but even birds and smaller animals. “Some amount of abuse does happen. Even popular tricks using pigeons and those involving rabbits emerging from hats; that’s not their true nature. Their wings are clipped, ears are chopped. Despite a law in the country, there are still people using them, which really saddens me,” Sorcar Junior told indianexpress.com.
Wildlife Not Entertainers campaign of WAP seeks to prevent the suffering of wild animals used for entertainment in captivity. Referring to the Prevention of Cruelty Animals Act, 1960 that ‘prevents the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering on animals’, Sorcar Junior stressed on the need to raise awareness.
“The decision to support animals was taken a long time back. We are huge animal lovers who see them as companions, not pets. We need to understand and realise that any form of entertainment where they are confined in a cage or subjected to atrocities is not the way to live. It is necessary to make people understand that animals also have the right to life. We don’t need to rely on animals to promote our art,” commented Sorcar Junior. His signature trick encompasses making large objects disappear, which most famously included the Taj Mahal back in 2000 for two minutes (by using the technique of light refraction).
Sorcar Junior, who has previously owned a lion, Samrat, an elephant called Badshah among others, elaborated on how he treated his pets or “companions”.
“During several decades of performing magic across the world, I have had animals in my shows in the past, starting from pigeons and rabbits to lions Samrat, Renuka, Sultan and Begum, and Badshah, the elephant. I have always tried my best to treat them compassionately. Despite this, I recognise today that animals, and most certainly wild animals, do not belong in entertainment and should be allowed to live free in the wild,” remarked Sorcar Junior, who performs more than 400 shows in a year.
On what led to this change in belief, he remarked, “What made me think about animal abuse in entertainment and magic, in particular, was the discussions I was having with colleagues, the other illusionists and also learning from experiences from around the world.”
While some of the bigger animals perform under constant threat of punishment, the financial constraints of the trainers/owners might have a direct bearing on how they use force during training sessions. For instance, there have been cases where they have withheld food. Another aspect that is not often highlighted is their rehabilitation. “When not working, these animals spend most of their lives chained or in cramped, filthy cages, deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them, often including the companionship of others of their own species as well as a spacious, enriching environment. Once animals cross a certain age or their services are no longer required, they are left to rot in cages. Or when a circus company shuts down, they are left without rehabilitation. This is what needs to change soon,” he said.
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