Ban Elephant Rides in India, Urges Academy Award-Winning Actress

Anjelica Huston has urged Indian tourism ministry to consider the plight of pachyderms and ban elephant rides.


Oscar winning actress Anjelica Huston has urged the Indian Ministry of Tourism to ban elephant rides in the country. Huston said she was moved by a photograph that recently emerged a winner in the Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography Awards 2017.

“As much as I was enchanted by India when we filmed The Darjeeling Limited there, I am haunted now by the image of a mother elephant and her calf — fleeing, screaming, from a mob hurling fiery tar balls at them in West Bengal,” Huston wrote in the letter, IANS reported. She has sent the letter to the Ministry of Tourism on behalf of the animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), requesting them to ban elephant rides.

Biplab Hazra’s image that won Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2017

Huston was referring to a picture that shows an elephant and its calf running away from an angry mob that is attacking them and hurling fire balls at them. The photograph shows a burning calf as its mother just about manages to dodge a fireball.

The award-winning photograph was taken by Biplab Hazra, a wildlife photographer, and brought the challenges faced by elephants in the wild into the forefront. The picture, titled Hell is Here, is an apt representation of man-animal conflict, and shows how elephants are chased out when they raid crops. Villagers often use violent means such as burning fire crackers to drive away elephant herds approaching their ripe crops. This is usually seen at elephant corridors across the country in states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Odisha. Elephant herds are often attacked, sometimes even for fun by villagers and sometimes in a bid to save their livelihood and homes.

Elephant rides and safaris are a common sight at many zoological and national parks across India, including the Bandhavgarh and Kaziranga National Parks in Madhya Pradesh and Assam, respectively. Tourists don’t mind splurging money to hop on to a pachyderm to get a better view of the forest or even to catch a glimpse of a tiger in the wild, even if it comes at a cost of the animal being tortured to train or discipline them.

Houston’s film The Darjeeling Limited, which was released in 2007, was shot around Amer Fort in Rajasthan, where elephant rides are a popular attraction for tourists.

The actress, who won an Oscar for the Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film Prizzi’s Honor that released in 1985, has also rooted for the cause of stopping the production of horse-drawn carriages in New York. She had also written to the government of Ireland to keep its word on banning fur farms.

Huston has also received Academy Award nominations for her roles in Enemies, A Love Story and The Grifters. She became popular with her roles in The Addam’s Family and Addams Family Values.

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