Restrained in chains and holding a placard reading, “For God’s Sake, Say No to Elephant Rides”, Bollywood actor Neil Nitin Mukesh (remember the baddie in Vijay-starrer ‘Kaththi’?) posed for a brand-new People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India festive-focused campaign at Mehboob Studio recently. Known as an avid follower of Ganesh Chaturthi, Neil celebrates the festival with great fervour with his family and friends every year but is saddened that, while we pray to Lord Ganesha, captive elephants suffer.
The well-articulated actor, who is also an ardent animal lover, considers it his ethical responsibility to educate his fans on how elephants, the majestic jungle kings, have been turned into slaves and are deprived of a natural habitat that’s integral to their well-being. They are forced to give rides and regularly chained and beaten when they are not being used – all for so-called “entertainment”. The unique campaign was shot by ace photographer Rohan Shrestha. Neil’s hairstyling was done by Amit Parekh, and his make-up was done by Wasim Shaikh Ahmed.
The SIIMA “Best Actor in a Negative Role” award winner for Tamil film Kaththi, Neil states, “It’s paradoxical that on one hand, we revere Lord Ganesha, and on the other hand, we ride on elephants – for which their minds are caged, bodies are tormented and souls are imprisoned. You can help put a stop to this insensitive crime by refusing to ride on elephants.”
So-called elephant “joyrides” are least joyful and most painful for the elephants who are forced to participate in these revolting practices. A PETA-commissioned investigation of elephant training in Nepal and a PETA investigation of elephants used for rides in Jaipur revealed that elephants are physically and emotionally abused at every juncture. When they are just 2 years old, baby elephants are torn away from the tender care of their mothers and are either tied up between trees with heavy chains and ropes, which cause painful burns, or confined to a tiny wooden enclosure called a kraal. Captive elephants are forced against their will to help separate mother elephants from their offspring, who frantically weep for their mothers and struggle to get free. Trainers then beat the young elephants with sticks and jab them with iron hooks called ankuses until they lose all hope and begin to obey commands, which sometimes lasts for months. These metal weapons are also used to pierce their sensitive ears, yank on them and force them to walk in a certain fashion. Trainers then continue to thrash the elephants on their heads and other parts of their bodies when they make a blunder, leaving many injured. They are then forced to give rides with untreated open wounds.