Chance to be kinder to elephants at Pooram

The state government and the organisers should see to it that the Pooram is celebrated without hurting the helpless pachyderms.
Crowd gathers to witness caparisoned elephants at Thrissur Pooram, in Kerala.
Crowd gathers to witness caparisoned elephants at Thrissur Pooram, in Kerala. (File Photo | T P Sooraj, EPS)

It’s that time of the year in Kerala when animal welfare activists lock tusks with ‘elephant lovers’. It’s time for Thrissur Pooram, the largest temple festival in the state marked by colourful fireworks and the parading of caparisoned elephants. As many as 100 captive elephants take part and people from all over the state flock to Thrissur to witness this magnificent event that lasts 36 hours. Animal welfare activists have been up in arms against the parading of the elephants as the jumbos are subjected to severe torture while they stand for hours in chains in the heat and face deafening fireworks. But traditionalists, who vouch for their love for elephants, have been opposing any regulation in the name of customs.

However, there could be some change this time as the Kerala High Court has picked the issue as a suo moto case and decided to intervene. Taking note of the extreme heat conditions in the state, the court has directed that the theevetti (pole-mounted fire) be placed at least 6 metres away from the elephants and that only a few persons be authorised by the organisers to enter the 6-metre radius.

The court has told the organisers—the Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady devaswoms—to share with the forest department the details of the volunteers engaged with the elephant squads; it has also banned use of ‘capture belts’ or any other equipment that causes hurt to the animals. The court has asked the organisers to ensure that the elephants are under no fatigue and are not exposed to the sun for long, and are properly fed and watered. The order also asks that the issuance of fitness certificates for the captive elephants be made mandatory before participating at the Pooram.

The high court directive, for a change, has been welcomed by the Elephant Owners’ Association, which had protested against a more stringent order issued by the state forest department banning percussion and fireworks within a 50-metre radius of the elephants. The state government and the organisers should see to it that the Pooram is celebrated without hurting the helpless pachyderms. No torture can be tolerated in the name of tradition. Those concerned must understand that traditions survive when they attune themselves with the changing times.

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