KOCHI — As the stage is set for Kerala's iconic festival Thrissur Pooram, Hollywood actress Pamela Anderson has written to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy asking him not to the use elephants for the festival.
Anderson's email to Mr Chandy comes in the wake of an Animal Welfare Board of India's (AWBI) advisory telling Kerala officials to leave live elephants out of the upcoming Thrissur Pooram parade because they are not registered with AWBI which is required by law before any animal can be made to perform.
In her letter, Anderson, a long time People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India patron offered to contribute the cost of providing 30 life-sized, realistic and portable elephants made of bamboo and papier-mache to replace live elephants "whose use is coming under increasing scrutiny because of changing public opinion."
"I'm sure you know that both Indian and international public opinion is turning solidly against use of elephants in captivity," wrote Anderson, two days ahead of the Pooram to be held at Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur town.
The festival, in which several elephants are paraded, is held every year on Pooram Day of the Malayalam calendar month of 'Medam' (April).
A chained temple elephant sits upon the command of his mahout as he is prepared for Fridayâs Pooram festival procession at a temple in Thrissur, India, Thursday, May 8, 2014. Pooram, a traditional festival marked with processions of decorated elephants, is one of the most famous festivals of the southern Indian state of Kerala. (AP Photo/Arun Sankar K)
"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," she said in the letter released to the media by PETA India.
PETA said although it is illegal to beat and torture animals, elephants forced to participate in parades are trained through physical punishment.
Anderson noted that the use of captive elephants would make visitors to Kerala also upset.
"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," she says.
PETA said capturing an elephant is prohibited under The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Yet many captive elephants are thought to have been captured illegally from the wild, separated from their mothers and transported to Kerala.
The AWBI's advisory against the use of live elephants at the Thrissur Pooram parade followed a tip from PETA India, whose motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to use for entertainment".
The News Minute spoke to residents and tourists in Thrissur for their opinion on the matter, and their responses were overwhelmingly in the negative. One T R Vijayakumar, for example, said that while strict rules must be enforced to prevent the misuse of the animals, saying: "One cannot go by what a Hollywood actor says, especially when she does not know what she is talking about."