In a move welcomed by animal protection organisations, a real live elephant traditionally used in religious ceremonies at a temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala has been replaced by a life-sized mechanical elephant. The new “cruelty-free” elephant, called Irinjadappilly Raman, is 10 feet 6 inches tall and looks like, and moves like, a real elephant. It was donated by the animal rights organisation PETA to conduct ceremonies at the Irinjadappilly Sree Krishna Temple.
PETA claims that most elephants in captivity in the country, including in Kerala, are being held illegally or have been transported to a different state without permission. They say, “when used for rides, ceremonies, tricks, and other purposes, they are trained and controlled through severe punishments, beatings, and the use of weapons with a metal-tipped hook. Many have extremely painful foot ailments and leg wounds from being chained to concrete for hours on end, and most do not get adequate food, water, or veterinary care, let alone any semblance of a natural life.”
Rajkumar Namboothiri, head priest of the temple, said in a press release quoted by CNN, “we are extremely happy and grateful to receive this mechanical elephant which will help us to conduct our rituals and festivals in a cruelty-free way, and we hope that other temples will also think about replacing live elephants for rituals” Actress Parvathy Thiruvothu, a supporter of the project, added, “in this day and age, we have access to understanding what animals are forced to endure when humans use them for entertainment… It’s high time we made stronger and more impactful strides towards stopping such abuse and letting animals have respectful and dignified lives.”
PETA India has been encouraging all venues and events using elephants to switch to lifelike mechanical elephants or other means in place of real elephants.