Circuses: Cruelty On Show And How To Act Against Them

On March 2, 1991, the Environment Ministry ordered through notification the banning of performing animals in circuses. I was responsible for the ban on the training and exhibition of performing animals. The Indian Circus Federation went to court and managed to obtain a stay alleging that the notification infringed upon their right to carry on trade and business. The Attorney General was asked by the Ministry to contest the case and we all thought that since the evidence was so clear, since the breaking of so many laws was apparent, the matter would be over in a few weeks. By 1993, the case had come up several times and each time the Government asked for time.

The new minister, who was at pains to explain that he had not the slightest regard for animals, went on record on July 15, 1991, barely a month after he had assumed office, to say that the ban was unreasonable and should be withdrawn.

Why is it necessary to remove the existing animals from circuses and prevent more from coming in, and what can you do if these circuses come to your town? Let me try to answer. There are about 100 circuses in India, which come mainly from South India. Twenty-two of these belong to the Circus Federation which has challenged the ban.

What laws do circuses break?

According to Section 11 (a) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960) anyone who (a) beats, kicks, overrides, overdrives, overloads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or cause or being the owner permits any animal to be so treated; or (b) wilfully and unreasonably administers any injurious drug or injurious substance to (any animal) or wilfully and unreasonably causes or attempts to cause any such drug or substance to be taken by (any animal); or (c) conveys or carries, whether in or upon any vehicle or not, any animal in such a manner or position as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering; or (d) keeps or confines any animal in any cage or other receptacle which does not measure sufficiently in height, length and breadth to permit the animal a reasonable opportunity for movement; or (e) keeps for an unreasonable time any animal chained or tethered upon an unreasonably short or unreasonably heavy chain or cord; or (f) being the owner, neglects to exercise or cause to be exercised reasonably any animal habitually chained up or kept in close confinement; (g) solely with a view to providing entertainment, he shall be punishable by a fine or a term of imprisonment.

Circuses violate almost all these provisions.

How are animals treated in circuses? I will elaborate in detail later, but the salient issues are: they are drugged and made to perform tricks twice or thrice a day. They suffer a lifetime of confinement in tiny cages, bumped from town to town, leading lonely, abnormal and unhealthy lives, without any veterinary treatment (no Indian circus has a travelling vet). They are kept hungry and tortured with whips and shocks. If we cannot stop these cruelties, what’s the use of having laws?

The Agriculture Ministry saw fit to issue a notification called the ‘Performing Animals, Rules 1973’ in which all circuses using animals have to register the animal with them and send a copy of the information to the Animal Welfare Board. They have to state the kind of animal, the nature of the performance and the apparatus used for the performance. If this is approved, the animal is registered for the circus. It is extremely surprising that circuses are able to obtain licences for keeping a large number of wild animals despite the fact that none of them have qualified vets to travel along with the animals.

Fitness certificates then have to be procured from the government vet in whichever town the circus travels to. One look at the animals in the circus shows that the government vet has probably taken a bribe and the certificate has become a matter of routine, with no relation to the condition of the animal or its fitness to travel, perform three times a day, or live in the cramped conditions it is confined in now!

Wildlife enjoys protection under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, and the animals used in circuses—lions, tigers, elephants, leopards, bears, hippopotami, monkeys and certain birds—are all highly endangered and belong to Schedule I of this Act, which grants them the highest form of protection. Using them for entertainment and discarding them when they are too old—what kind of protection is that?

There is another reason for which the ban on performing animals must be carried through. Under the Wildlife Protection Act, wild animals with circuses have to be registered both at the time of acquisition and death. Strangely, no animal has ever died in the last 50 years! Death records of circus animals do not exist. Could it be that when an animal dies its skin is traded and the dead animal fast replaced with another, procured illegally?

It is sheer rubbish to claim that circuses breed their own animals. Animals—which are highly sensitive and emotional creatures—seldom breed under hostile conditions. Even in a zoo there is very little reproduction. This means the young animals that you see in a circus come from your jungles and are passed off as the young of circus animals. Circuses lead to increased poaching and the skin and tusk trade flourishes through these ‘entertainment’ centres.

Even before the notification was issued by me, we had contacted zoos and small sanctuaries to provide for the relocation of animals. Except for the 200 dogs—which I agreed to take—we found homes for all the animals. So the argument that the ministry now puts forward, ‘what will we do with the animals?’ is specious. Let them look at their own files.

The circus companies have argued that animals are an inseparable part of a circus without which the circuses would close. Out of the approximately two and a half hour shows of each circus, less than 20 minutes are animal acts! The display of animals in circuses is now forbidden in western countries and their circuses are doing much better than ours. If their ‘fundamental right to carry on their trade and business’ has been infringed (which it hasn’t because no one has argued for the closure of the circus, merely for the replacement of one tenth of its acts) then smugglers, pickpockets and poachers can also argue on the same lines because their arrest by the police infringes on their ability to carry on their nefarious trades as well! No one has the right to carry on a trade that violates laws passed by Parliament.

Circuses kill the feeling of compassion for all animals and their natural environment, thus they help people to forget their fundamental duty as described in Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution of India, ‘to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for all living creatures.’

Circuses have never performed any conservation role—on the contrary, they plunder wild populations in order to supplement their menageries. Now, at a time when excellent wildlife programmes on television are of inestimable value in presenting an educational and balanced view, the circus, by contrast, conveys the impression that animals are worthy of interest only insofar as they are capable of performing unnatural tricks. The circus strips animals of all dignity, respect and natural beauty, presenting them as freaks.

This distorted view of wildlife and its value is damaging to the whole philosophy of conservation, which holds that the health of the planet and, indeed, the long-term prospects for humanity, rely critically on our appreciation and maintenance of the delicate balance and diversity of the natural world. Crucial to this view is a respect for the value of wild animals in their natural habitats.

How can a half-drugged sloth bear, tied to a motor cycle with nylon cords, forcibly made to ride in the ring, throw light on its natural behavior pattern? Or for that matter what can de-clawed lions and tigers jumping through fire rings, and rolling barrels, or the elephant paddling a ‘four-paddle platform’ on all fours, or another elephant doing a head stand, or cockatoos and macaws with their beaks and wings clipped short turning a big wheel round with the aid of their beaks and claws teach us? That this is indeed their natural behaviour pattern? Do we want to teach our children to disregard the feelings of other creatures, to enjoy their suffering and imprisonment and laugh at the indignity and humiliation thrust upon them in the name of entertainment?

Circuses based solely on human artistry and skill can be enjoyable and entertaining. The Moscow State Circus, previously renowned for its animal acts, has successfully toured Britain without a single animal. The all-human circus ‘Cirque de Soleil’ of Canada has got rave reviews about its performances. Our own Indian circuses have artistes who have extraordinary talents.

How much more entertaining it is to watch humans voluntarily stretching their talents to the limit, than to see proud and noble animals reduced to submissive, debased caricatures of themselves!

In contrast, human artistes provide children with an example to be admired and can do much to stimulate their interest in activities such as gymnastics. Surely this is the right path to follow.

The central government has the power to make rules under Section 63 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, and should use this power, specially when it comes to preserving and protecting India’s vanishing wildlife. If the ministry cannot fight the case against the circus lobby which has enough money to continue buying officials all over, let the minister take the notification to Parliament and have it ratified. He would be taking a giant step towards the preservation of India’s heritage.

Here are some examples of what the animals in these circuses are made to do and the condition they are in. Mind you they have to perform three times a day.

Gemini Circus:

  • We noticed both the year old lion cubs had round black scars in the centre of their foreheads. These looked like wounds inflicted during the course of their training. The same marks were found on all the lions in the Raj Kamal Circus.
  • A hippopotamus was brought into the ring, and made to walk around opening and closing its mouth for 10 seconds. One of its eyes had turned milky white as a result of a wound. Its two upper fangs were conspicuous by their absence and had obviously been pulled out.
  • A tiger was brought inside in a cage. It had a thick nylon rope tied around its neck. It was made to get onto a contraption which resembled a tricycle and with its hind legs on the cycle and the forelegs on the pedals, it was made to cycle once round the ring. It had small thin black scars all over its body.
  • A bear was tied to the top of the engine 10 minutes before the train started into the ring. The engine is on, emitting poisonous fumes right into the face of the bear. The train circles the ring for three minutes with the bear visibly struggling to get free and choking from the smoke. This train included two Rhesus monkeys which were tied to the roof of the train, who watched the bear panting, two pelicans and a lion which lay on its back motionless as though drugged. The event lasted five minutes.
  • An elephant—Manisha—was made to walk on her hind legs, which she did with great difficulty, in spite of the fact that she seemed pregnant. Then she was made to climb a stool on all fours and balance on two, and then one leg. While she was sitting on the stool and hesitating, the trainer raised his stick to her forehead. She closed her eyes and recoiled with fear. The other elephant who was ‘playing cricket’ had a damaged left eye.
  • Most of the 11 lions were young. They were made to do the usual tricks of sitting on high and low stools on their hindquarters for long stretches of time. Most of them were extremely reluctant to do their act but were ‘persuaded’ by two or three helpers who had big sticks in their hands and constantly hit the lions hard all over their body. What was common in all the lions was a hip disorder, whereby the hind legs and the lower spine are not as strong and muscular as they should be.

It wore a frock and held an umbrella in its right paw. The trainer walked beside the bear goading it with a stick and slapping it on its back. The bear’s eyes were absolutely glazed and it appeared to have been drugged. Its claws had been clipped extremely short. It had a nylon chord around its neck, which the handler held.

This sloth bear was then made to ride a motorcycle. It was put on to the seat of the vehicle, its fore legs tied to the handle. A nylon chord was tied around its neck and taken down from its back to the seat. The bear was panting and frothing at the mouth.

  • An elephant appeared with a cricket bat in its trunk. It hit out with the bat at a football which was thrown at its trunk. When it hesitated, the handler hit it with the stick. Of three other elephants, one had an injury on its right hind leg, and was limping, and the skin above the ankles of all three was rough and raw due to being constantly tied with heavy chains. Any one of the elephants not following instructions was poked and prodded with the stick.
  • There were four lions and two lionesses. The two lionesses were made to jump through the fire ring two to three times. They did so reluctantly, every time the handler raised his stick.

Three of them were made to climb a high platform and raise their forelegs. They were then made to lie on the ground and roll around while two handlers seized them by their tails changing their positions from side to side. The lions were in acute pain.

One lion was made, with a stick and whip with which he was constantly threatened, to stand on a barrel and roll it forward and backward with all four legs.

  • A very small black panther was let out of its cage in the centre of the ring, and made to climb a ladder to a high platform. Two platforms had been constructed about 12 feet apart. Two ropes, about 18 inches away from each other, ran parallel to each other from one platform to other. The panther was made to balance one hind and one foreleg on one rope and the other set on the parallel rope and walk from one platform to another with its legs parted in this abnormal manner. All the while, bright lights glared into its eyes, frightening and confusing it. It had a long nylon rope tied to its neck which ended in the trainer’s hand. A thin metal rope belt (like a harness) was fixed around its stomach and attached to the top of the tent, ready to hoist the animal up, in case it lost its balance.
  • A hippo was brought into the ring by a girl with a stick in one hand and two slices of bread in the other. She constantly poked and prodded the hippo with the stick, and it reluctantly opened its mouth wide, exposing a few teeth to the viewers. The girl threw the slices of bread into the mouth of the hippo, catching it off guard and almost choking it.
  • One elephant was made to climb on four legs, onto a round stool. Then it was made to balance on three, two and finally one leg. Next it was made to sit on the stool in human fashion and raise its fore legs in the form of a salute. The climax of this act was the headstand. This pathetic animal was made to stand on its head with all four legs up in the air, balancing its huge tonnage on its small head.

Tell me if a single one of these acts is natural, amusing or entertaining. Considering that only 20 minutes of each circus show of two and a half hours have animal acts, is it necessary to put these poor animals through such suffering? Is it legal, is it humane? Every time you visit a circus, you pay for the whips, the sticks, the ankush, the bars, the mutilations and the endless suffering of these jailed creatures. Does that amuse you or your children?

How They Live—And Die

Here is the report by a group that went round the animal cages in Gemini Circus. They were not allowed to take photographs—and for good reason. The circus has 10 elephants, 26 horses, eight camels, 32 lions, four tigers, two leopards and a hippopotamus, birds, dogs and other animals.

The cages of the lions and tigers were extremely small. The cats could hardly lie down straight. Approximate dimensions—4’ x 38” x 48” cage for an eight year old child, not a full grown lion. There was a strong smell of ammonia in the cat cages.

There were two Rhesus monkeys in a narrow cage. Apart from being caged, thick metal chains had been fastened around their necks and tied to the metals rods of the cage.

The hippo had been kept in a portable tanker filled with filthy, stinking water. The hippo requires a large dry area to move about. It does not remain in water throughout. There was no provision for its coming out of the water. In Delhi’s winter it would quickly freeze to death or die of lung disease.

The cats were being trained. The lions were inside the iron path, through which they enter the ring. This contraption is only two and a half feet and about three feet broad. The roof is a semi-circle. Next to this small trap three lion cubs were in a small cage next to the training enclosure. The cubs were refusing to go into the enclosure from their cages and were being beaten with iron rods.

The other lions had been separated into two areas within the pathway. Two lion cubs were in one division and one full grown lion and lioness together in the other division. They could hardly fit in and were restless. The lion was constantly pacing towards the training enclosure and seemed under great stress as he watched the cubs being beaten. His pacing and growling were controlled by a man who poked him with an iron rod. The physical, mental and emotional stress was too much for the lion to bear, and he turned around and attacked the lioness. All these lions had dried whip marks on their foreheads.

There were doves, macaws and cockatoos in small cages. The dogs too were in cages. A Spitz had a wounded eye which protruded and was milky white in colour.

Amar Circus pitched tent in Model Town. Here is an eyewitness account from a person who lived directly opposite the animal enclosures and kept vigil all the time they were there. She filed a written complaint with World Wildlife Fund:

‘They do not treat their animals well at all. The hippo is fed only a bucket of boiled potatoes and some dry grass a day, and that too if it is willing to perform. The lions are not given enough meat—only morsels are thrown at them.’

Not only are the animals in a bad state, but their living conditions are extremely cramped and unhygienic. The lions are locked in cages measuring 5.6’ x 5.6’ x 4.5’. The dogs are in cages 20” x 17” x 21”. Birds with clipped wings are squashed together in tiny receptacles.

At the Jumbo circus, the dirty cages of lions were being washed with water for the first time in a month. As the slushy water flowed in their cages the lions immediately tried to lap it up as they had not been given water to drink. No provision had been made for water bowls inside the cages or for the animals chained outside. They were fed milk in the evening after the last show.

It is unnatural to give milk to grown cats.

A mare had given birth to a foal, during transportation.

A white dog was suffering from an advanced stage of ear infection. Another dog had a big wound on the upper foreleg.

One Hobra (cross between a horse and zebra) had a lower hind leg wound.

Dogs were in tiny crates, covered with black plastic sheets.

The depth of the water tank for the hippo was four feet, but the depth of water was only two feet and three inches.

Tigers were in cages the same length as their own bodies, not long enough to stretch or freely turn around, barely able to move. They appeared drugged, because they did not respond to the team members going close or patting them on the their backs.

The camel’s body was covered with sores.

The bear on seeing the hooked metal stick in the hands of a man, crept to the corner of the cage and stood on its hind legs ready to perform!

The elephants are constantly chained—front two legs and one hind leg. The Hobra was made to stand all day long—its neck tied tightly to a stake in front and the hind leg tied to a stake at the back.

Justice Denied—Again

‘The hippopotamus, a water-loving, social, vegetarian mammal lay still on the dry ground surrounded by an iron rod railing. There was no water, no shade. The nearby newly built ditch was empty. It was time for his act. A man came and threw a bucketful of water. It turned his face to the left and thirstily tried to sip the water with his tongue on the side. Another man goaded him in his stomach with a long wooden stick to make him stand up. The hippo opened his mouth in pain and immediately stood up on his feet and his mouth hitting the railing. So he lifted his face upward and moved around anti-clockwise. Now he was facing the gate of the enclosure.

‘There was some fresh green grass kept on the right side of the enclosure. The hippo was very hungry. He moved forward but the man took the grass away. Two men held a rope on either side and tried to push the hippo with it in the direction of the tent. A man held the grass in his hands and moved backwards towards the tent. The hippo kept moving towards the grass and went inside the tent. After a few minutes his act was over and he came out running raggedly into the enclosure. His gate was closed and a small bucketful of raw potatoes (approximately five kg) and dry grass was thrown in. In less than a minute the hippo had gulped them down. That was his meal for the day. The hippo is kept hungry till the show is over. When the hippo refuses to go into the ring, the circus people don’t feed him. Then the animal bangs his head like a bell but does not get anything. Sometimes the food of the animal is stolen by the handlers themselves who take away the potatoes for their own families.’

This complaint, filed by a concerned resident, resulted in a check up by animal welfare workers and the SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.) As a result, a ditch was half-filled with water and a shade was erected for the hippo. But the water was never changed and stank.

KARE filed an official complaint on the basis of their own observation on November 8, 1991, to the Delhi SPCA. Typically, the DSPCA checked the animals the same day, but lodged their official complaint at Tiz Hazari courts, two weeks later. Something very strange happened:

The Metropolitan Magistrate R.S. Mahla gave the SPCA (which is a government-run body) a sympathetic hearing and the Zoo vet, C.K. Mondol was summoned to check the animals.

KARE and the SPCA complained that:

  • (a) The cages of the tigers, lions, leopards, panthers and bears are covered with large, solid metal doors from all sides, without ventilation most of the day and night.
  • (b) It was found that a pregnant lioness was being kept in a cage measuring 5.6’ x 5.3’. There was hardly any room for proper exercise and it was imperative that the lioness was not made to perform.

It was also found that one pelican had its upper front beak broken freshly. No proper care for this was provided and it was felt that the broken beak is the indication of cruelty that the bird was being subjected to in order to make it perform.

It was also detected that dogs were kept in extremely small cages measuring 17” x 20” x 21” for hours. A hippopotamus was being kept in a water tank measuring only 9’ x 8’ with depth of four feet and the water level was much too low. The water was filthy and there was no provision for fresh water to enter the tank and filthy water to be removed. It is a well known fact that the hippopotamus should be able to totally submerge its body in water so as to retain its health.

KARE summed up: ‘All the above facts prima facie make out an offence under section 24 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It is, therefore, requested that cognizance of the above be taken immediately.’

They also added that they suspected a small black dog at the Amar Circus to be suffering from distemper. They had taken along a well known veterinarian who confirmed their doubts.

The judge immediately restrained the Amar Circus from exhibiting the animals and directed that the cages and tank be increased and the water filled and changed regularly for the hippo and the pelican be taken into veterinary care. Less than two days later, the same judge stopped all proceedings against the same circus. His reasoning was that:

  • (a) the circus was ending soon;
  • (b) the pregnancy of the lioness could not be proved without conducting detailed tests of the animal;
  • (c) there was no proof that the upper beak of the pelican had fractured. (This is the most mysterious turnaround that I have seen in a country where allegations of judicial corruption are frequent).

What happened then? The pelican disappeared. Inquiries about his condition were fobbed off with, ‘There’s no bird like that in this circus.’ The hippo was not shifted to a larger and deeper pool. The water of the pool was not changed and its colour became darker than the hippo’s skin.

In the last four days of the circus in Model Town the hippo was not fed at all. He would go to the edge of the enclosure and open his big mouth in anticipation of food all the time. Not finding anything, he would return to the pool. He kept shuttling from the pool to the standing place, sometimes three times in 10 minutes. He tried to chew the cemented sides of the pool. At other times he was seen jumping high to chew the rope and cloth of the canopy with his mouth. Four days later the hippo did not have the energy to stand. The circus people loaded the helpless hippo on an Amar Circus truck to take him to the next town.

What You Can Do:

A 20-year old cow elephant, Lakshmi, belonging to the New Grand Circus, collapsed and died on the road in Chennai. An examination revealed that the pachyderm was suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion. This incident is not an isolated one. Every one of these 100 circuses has killed animals in similar ways.

Government licenced vets on the local level can only give permission for performances after checking that the animals have been given all the mandatory inoculations for their respective species.

You can, if you choose to register a local police complaint against the circus, ask for the immunisation charts to be produced. This means you have to look for charts for the following:

  • Inoculations for all infectious, bacterial and viral diseases. Special attention should be paid to T.B. and foot-and-mouth diseases.
  • Regular deworming of each animal.
  • Birds should have received the Ranikhet vaccination schedule in infancy and adulthood and vaccinations against common Asian diseases should have been given at regular intervals.
  • Dogs should have been given their anti-rabies, distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptosporiasis, para-influenza vaccinations and inoculations.

Obviously there should be a permanent vet, experienced in diagnosis, treatment as well as prevention of diseases of wild animals. The vet must possess an emergency first aid kit and be able to handle any such situation while travelling. No circuses without vets should be allowed to have animal performances. The animals should be given fitness certificates at every city and town they enter, not only by a government vet but by vets from recognised animal welfare organisations. Each animal/bird should possess an individual fitness certificate.

On entering a town, the circus should again get a temporary registration from the authorities: municipal corporation, police, wildlife department. The temporary registration should be on the basis of veterinary certificates for each animal, verified as suggested earlier, an okay given by the wildlife department that each wild animal has a registration certificate and that the number, sex, age etc. of these animals tally with those on paper.

There should be some size specifications for both travelling and habitation cages. Special attention should be paid to the type of flooring and roofing for each kind of animal/bird. They must be protected against the elements. The cages, specially of the big cats, should be made much bigger regardless of the fact that there is a case pending in the High Court. The tank for the hippos should be made bigger with more dry area for grazing. There should be a sort of filter system for pumping out dirty water and pumping in clean water. Pelicans and ducks should have a water pond for them to freely wade around in. Water should be provided in all animal cages at all times.

These circuses deserve to be harassed, just the way they abuse their animals. We will have to proceed through long lasting ways: by using society’s disapproval, economic pressure and through the law. Let me tell you what to do:

  • Don’t support circus cruelty. Don’t buy tickets to circuses with animal acts and discourage others as well. If a school is taking its children there, talk to the principal and dissuade him/her. Lodge your protests with circus promoters. This may not affect their behaviour but it certainly warns them that trouble is on the way.
  • Picket circuses and discourage people from entering. Get a group of people together, make placards, stand just outside the gates and shout if you like. Show blowups of mistreated animals. Hand out fliers with details of how the animals in that circus are being treated.
  • Report any abuse to your local commissioners of wildlife, TV and reporters and don’t let the circus settle into your town. Lodge complaints of cruelty in different police stations so that they get a visit a day. Let the police and the wildlife wardens take the measurements of the cages, see the food and water situation, the general health of the animals, the acts themselves. Make sure that you show the police the relevant provisions of the Animal Welfare Act and the new Wildlife Act. How many and how much can they bribe?
  • When the posters go up of the circus coming to your town, put up cancelled stickers over each poster.
  • Write letters to your newspapers and get as many people as you can to do the same. It would be good if you can get signature campaigns done and send copies to the Environment Ministry in Delhi.

Ministry officials, for reasons that I can only attribute as suspicious, have chosen to ignore the rules that they themselves have made into law. A sustained protest might make them realise that India’s natural wealth is more important than their own.

  • Show films of animal abuse on your local cable TV. This is a difficult one, so write to KARE as soon as you hear of a circus coming into town and they might send you (for a small fee) a video. It would be even better if you made your own and then we could use that all over India. This is what you do:

Find out where the animals are being unloaded and be there with a camera. Look out for these signs:

  • Are the animals kept outside or under a tent?
  • Does the tent protect them from weather conditions?
  • What is the cage size for each animal? Do they have space to stand, sit and walk around?
  • Is the animal supplied with any form of bedding? If disposable, has it been recently changed? Is there standing water present in the cage? Are the cages free of faecal matter? How often are the cages cleaned and with what? What type of food and water containers is being used?
  • Do they have clean water in bowls in the cage?
  • What and how often are the animals fed?
  • Do any animals have bald spots? Do any animals have sores or openings in their skin? Do they appear underweight, with protruding ribs, hips or backbone? Do they have damaged eyes or ears or broken legs? Are there any signs of physical abuse e.g. repetitive pacing, rocking or self-mutilation? Are any of the animals pregnant?

No big cats in the big top

Returning to the government as a minister again in 1998, I returned to the circus case. Typically, it had languished for seven years and was in danger of joining a pile of files that never go anywhere. I dusted it off and proceeded with it.

In October of that year, on the basis of a Committee recommendation, mu ministry issued a Government notification banning the use of five species of wild animals from being trained or exhibited. Tigers, lions, panthers, bears and monkeys could no longer be used by circuses.

In December 1998, the Delhi High Court (which has never yet disappointed me in an animal case) ruled unequivocally in the matter. In a detailed and well considered judgement, the court upheld the notification and dismissed the circus federation plea. Therefore, as of now, none of these five categories of wild animals may be part of any circus performance. Since the law involved is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, these categories are meant in their broadest sense. For example, monkeys mean all primates and so on. Violations of this order GSR 19(E) dated 14.10.98, can be prosecuted under Section 26 © of the PCA Act and punished with fine, jail term or both.

When a circus comes to town, be sure it is not using any of these species. If so, alert the SPCA (if one exists in this district), the SP, the DM as well as the Forest and Wildlife Department. The circus can have its permission to perform revoked, its owner arrested and the concerned animals confiscated to safe custody in the nearest zoo or national park.

So the law is there, now it is up to you to give it teeth.

Maneka Gandhi

*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*