Motivated by a viral photograph showing a mother Indian elephant and her baby desperately trying to outrun flaming projectiles being thrown at them by a mob, Academy Award winner Anjelica Huston sent a letter today on behalf of PETA India calling on the Indian Ministry of Tourism to protect the country’s wildlife and ban cruel elephant rides.

“As much as I was enchanted by India when we filmed The Darjeeling Limited there, I am haunted now by the image of a mother elephant and her calf — fleeing, screaming, from a mob hurling fiery tar balls at them in West Bengal,” she writes. “I appeal to you on behalf of caring citizens around the world to ban the use of elephants for rides, move rescued elephants to sanctuaries, and empower those in the hideous elephant-abuse business to take up more upstanding professions.”

PETA India — whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment” — notes that elephants used for rides are typically beaten into submission; denied adequate food, water, and veterinary care; and made to stand on hard concrete surfaces, which leads to painful and crippling foot ailments and arthritis. Unsurprisingly, captive Indian elephants, who are often kept chained when not in use, exhibit signs of severe psychological distress, such as swaying, head-bobbing, and weaving, and have been known to lash out in frustration, injuring and even killing nearby humans.

Huston, who was named PETA’s Person of the Year in 2012, previously narrated PETA’s hard-hitting video exposé revealing how great apes suffer in the entertainment industry. She also appealed to the New York City Council in support of a bill to phase out the archaic horse-drawn carriage industry.

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