Thrissur, Kerala: A parade of elephants caparisoned in gold has been an enduring image for Kerala Tourism over the decades. The resplendent parade, featuring 30 elephants with decorated umbrellas over them, occurs during the state's annual, week-long Thrissur Pooram. This year the elephants' parade is scheduled for Wednesday.
Adding to the chorus of protests against the parade's use of 'live' elephants -- that is, elephants in captivity - is Pamela Anderson, a patron of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and a Hollywood actress best known for her role in the television show, 'Baywatch.'
In a letter sent to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy by email today, Ms Anderson urges him to stop this practice being part of the Thrissur Pooram, begun by Sakthan Tampuran, the Maharaja of Cochin, in the late 18th century. "I'm sure you know that both Indian and international public opinion is turning solidly against the use of elephants in captivity," her letter says.
The Animal Welfare Board of India has written twice before to the Kerala government, saying that elephants used for any form of performances have to be registered with the Board, as per an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960. The Board says the Kerala government has not responded and violation of the Act is a punishable offense.
Ms Anderson has offered to contribute to the cost of providing 30 elephants made of bamboo, wood and/or papier-mache, to replace the live elephants, as has been done twice before in Tamil Nadu. "It would be exciting to celebrate Thrissur Pooram that way again," she says. The Confederation of Tamil Nadu Malayalee Associations, used an array of faux elephants during Onam festivals twice before. Ms Anderson's letter says she was "blown away" by the faux elephants.
Seeing elephants in chains, forced to walk on hot pavements, can ruin peoples' holiday, says the PETA patron's letter. "I hope you agree that -- given that there have been more than 500 human deaths in the last 15 years in Kerala alone, from elephants who retaliated against this abuse -- it's time for a change."