In the wake of the Animal Welfare Board of India’s (AWBI) determination that Kerala officials must leave live elephants out of the much-anticipated Thrissur Pooram parade, PETA India patron and PETA Honorary Director Pamela Anderson has written to the chief minister of Kerala, offering to pay to provide 30 life-sized faux elephants handcrafted from bamboo and papier-mâché instead.
The realistic elephants would replace live elephants, whose use is coming under increasing scrutiny. In recent years, hundreds have run amok, killing spectators after being frightened by loud noises and having yellow powder thrown into their eyes.
If Anderson’s offer is accepted, this year’s Thrissur Pooram would be the third such progressive parade using faux elephants ever held in the country of India.
“My friends at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India know that the well- being of elephants is close to my heart, so they’ve let me know that the Animal Welfare Board of India has advised Kerala officials that real elephants cannot be used for the upcoming Thrissur Pooram on April 29 since they’re not registered with the board,” wrote Anderson. "I support this decision with every fibre of my being, and I’d like to offer my support for what is a wonderful opportunity to make a stunning, humane spectacle that everyone would talk about and that would garner international praise.
“To respect both the spirit of the festival and elephants who are held captive for human use — a practice that started long ago, before we knew of their intelligence and complex social nature — I would like to contribute the cost of providing 30 elephants made of bamboo, wood and/or papier- mâché to replace the live elephants who would have been paraded at an estimated cost of 10,000 INR per elephant. As you may know, when the Confederation of Tamilnadu Malayalee Associations wanted to celebrate Thrissur Pooram, it used such delightful faux elephants when it was denied permission to use real ones and aroused everyone’s admiration, joy, amusement, and delight. It would be exciting to celebrate Thrissur Pooram that way again.
“Since Kerala is a major tourist destination that I plan to visit one day, I’m sure you know that both Indian and international public opinion is turning solidly against the use of elephants in captivity. Seeing elephants in chains and forced to walk on hot pavement under the threat of an ankush or other weapon makes people sad and can ruin their holiday. I hope you agree that — given that there have been more than 500 human deaths in the last 15 years in Kerala alone from elephants who retaliated against this abuse — it’s time for a change.”
Capturing an elephant is prohibited under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, yet many captive elephants are thought to have been captured illegally from the wild, separated from their mothers as babies, and transported to Kerala — something PETA India is working to stop.