Landmark verdict in Jaipur elephant case
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January-February 2007:
JAIPUR–Eighteen years after a jeep killed an elephant used
to give tourists rides up the narrow, winding road to the Amer
Palace overlooking Jaipur, the Rajasthan High Court on December 20,
2006 upheld a 1993 ruling by the Motor Accident Tribunal of Jaipur
that elephant owner Saddique Khan should be compensated the same
amount as if the elephant had been a human being.
The sum, about $12,500 U.S. plus interest, is to be paid by
the New India Insurance Company. The company contended that it
should only pay the standard rate for livestock of equivalent size,
about $41.50 as of 1988, when the accident happened.
The case was judged as controversy and attempted litigation
continued over elephant polo, played in Jaipur since 1975, but only
protested since September 2006, when British author Mark Shand began
promoting a match to benefit his charity, The Elephant Family, and
the Jaipur-based animal charity Help In Suffering. The November 18
match was played without the traditional use of the ankus, or
“elephant hook,” to demonstrate that it could be done.
Shand is brother of Camilla Parker Bowles, wife of Prince
Charles of Britain.
Activists Shubhobroto Ghosh, of Kolkata, and Azam Siddique,
a television reporter in Assam state, orchestrated global Internet
protest against the match. PETA organized a protest at the scene,
by activists wearing elephant masks. The Haryana chapter of People
for Animals sought an injunction to halt the match, further elephant
polo games, and most film making use of elephants.
But the match was resolutely de-fended by Help In Suffering
head trustee Christine Townend, who with philosopher Peter Singer
cofounded the Australian animal rights group Animal Liberation in
1978, and has conducted annual elephant care clinics for the working
elephants of Jaipur since 2000.
Wrote Townend, “A number of groups objected to the practice
of alternative elephant polo, a slow and ambling game in which
elephants walk across a soft field in cool of evening, in the winter
months, under command of bare feet and voice only.
“For example, PETA claimed that the match should not take
place because the elephants in Jaipur live in terrible conditions.
This is exactly why Help in Suffering believes that alternative
elephant polo should be encouraged, so that these elephants have
enrichment in their lives.
“In a photo circulated to the media, the caption read,
‘Elephant with marks from a steel hook showing on its truck and
belly (Photo courtesy PETA-India).’ We know this elephant well,”
Townend said. “We twice saved her life, when she was suffering from
a urinary tract infection. The marks on her belly are patches of
depigmentation due to a skin disease she had long ago.
“Alternative elephant polo was endorsed by the Animal Welfare
Board of India and the Forest Department of Rajasthan,” Townend
continued. “We were honoured that the chair, Major General Kharb,
and his wife, attended the event, along with many other dignitaries
who deeply care about the miserable conditions under which the Jaipur
elephants live at present, who want to see their lives improved and