The Election Commission (EC) has imposed a blanket ban on the use or live demonstrations of animals during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
In its Model Code of Conduct manual, the EC has made it clear that all animals, birds or reptiles of any type cannot be used while canvassing for votes by political parties or their candidates.
The manual states: "The EC has advised the political parties and candidates to refrain from using any animal for election campaign in any manner. Even a party, having reserved symbols depicting an animal should not make live demonstration of that animal in any election campaign of the party/any of its candidates."
Several animal rights groups like PETA India, environmentalists and naturalists have wholeheartedly lauded the EC decision.
"EC and PETA India agree that using animals in election campaigns is unnecessary, archaic and cruel," said PETA CEO M. Valliyate.
He said political parties/candidates must stick to eye-catchy creative campaigns without subjecting the animals to the frightening torture of frenetic crowds, loudspeakers.
In the past, Valliyate said the PETA India had written to the EC, all State Election Commissions and political parties, expressing concern over how animals are forced into the middle of screaming crowds during election campaigns and poll rallies.
The terrified animals were often beaten, whipped, kicked and terrorised while being paraded through streets and shoved into mobs of wildly shouting and pushing crowds, it pointed out.
The animals were compelled to carry heavy loads, denied sufficient food, water and faced the prospects of severe injuries in the public mayhem.
Ganesh Nayak, chairman, NGO Animals Matter To Me (AMTM) Mumbai, lauding the EC, told news agency IANS: "Finally, we have become humane towards these silent creatures, who are tormented during the election gimmicks of us humans. The EC must strictly monitor implementation of its orders."
The elections have seen many animals and birds being allotted as symbols for various national state or local elections. Some popular animals include: elephants, tigers, deer, camels, cows, bulls, donkeys, parrots, peacocks, doves, hens, cats, dogs and snakes et al.
The candidates and occasionally even political parties, go to weird lengths to get the voters to identify with the animals allotted as their poll symbols.
The BSP and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) have an elephant as its symbol while the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) has a tiger as its mascot.
Concurring with the EC, environmentalist Bittu Sahgal said, "Politicians must understand that values have changed and (by using live animals) they would probably lose votes," Mr Sahgal told IANS.
Later, several states like Maharashtra, Assam, Mizoram, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have decreed that the use of live animals representing the allotted symbols of political parties/candidates would not be permitted in the election campaign.
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