The annual Thrissur Poonam festival is the biggest of its kind in Kerala, and is loaded with fireworks, dances, elephants and lights. While everything seems amazing on paper (and in pictures too), is the cost to elephants worth it?
Thousands of people come every year to watch the annual spectacle. Temples participate and engage in friendly competition with each other. Brilliant rounds of firework displays adorn the skies and the grounds. Beautiful and intricate caparisons (a cloth used to cover animals, elephants in this case) are shown to the visitors. Other ornamental elephant accessories like umbrellas are showcased and put on elephants. With Muslims and Christians helping out with decorations, it’s a very secular festival. What could go wrong with a festival that sounds so good?
The problem arises with the usage of the elephants themselves. PETA already hates the festival, claiming that elephants are mistreated, and they have the facts to prove their statements. Elephants have been allegedly used without proper permission. In fact, just last year, the Kerala government chose not to interfere with the elephant procession, despite PETA’s efforts to file a PIL against the usage of elephants at the festival. (Source: The Indian Express)
However, the report revealed some gory details. They claimed that elephants were physically and mentally tortured in captivity, and the Kerala Government and the festival organisers blatantly flouted rules. Also, the fact that these elephants were subjected to (and continue to be subjected to) loud firecrackers only makes matters worse, all in the name of pompous celebration.
That’s not all. There have been reports in the past, on elephants being made to stand in the scorching sun for hours on end. There have also been reports of an elephant going ape shit and injuring 62 people while trying to run away.
The main question lies: should Kerala stick to their age-old traditions and allow more elephants to suffer? We’re not against the usage of elephants, but the mistreatment of them. Only if Thrissur Pooram was much more humane in their approach to the elephants, and if they sought the necessary permissions to use them. Another question: are the elephants imperative to this temple celebration? Isn’t it high time that festivals like this evolve into cruelty-free events?
While the recent firework-related tragedy in Kerala has forced the Government to rethink on the firecrackers problem, the mistreatment of elephants remains unattended to. It’s a shame that such a beautiful festival has a horrible back story to it. What are your thoughts on this?
Think about it.