The festival season in Kerala is now over, and for the next 25-30 days the captive elephants will be afforded the "luxury" of indulging in the annual restorative therapy called "Sukhachikitsa". According to an article in The Hindu, elephants will be fed special variety of rice, green gram, horse gram, turmeric, and millet, combined with Ayurvedic potions, and conventional vitamin supplements.
But a revered Hindu spiritual leader in Kerala is concerned that elephants are also given unnatural food, including hundreds of eggs, and meat. Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha, the founder of Narayanashrama Tapovanam sounded deeply worried during an exclusive interview with me. You can listen to a short segment by clicking HERE.
He decries, "In the name of giving rejuvenation for their health, meat is often included in the special nutrition administered to them, although the treatment camps are located away from the temples. I have spoken on several platforms and told them you should never do that. After all, meat is generated from animals, and they [elephants] eat leaves and other things. We have vegetables which are equal to meat so why don't you put several vegetables together and feed them?"
I met Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha & Ma Gurupriya in March 2017
Well, that didn't go over too well with the Thiruvambadi Temple president. Apparently the truth made him uncomfortable and he stopped visiting Swamiji. This temple currently owns four elephants, including Lakshmi, featured in my multiple award-winning documentary, Gods in Shackles, also nominated at the UN General Assembly by the IEFF and CITES.
You would think that religious institutions would revere the divine nature of all sentient beings. But instead, their nefarious actions are having a detrimental impact on the health of these noble animals, and in the process, ripping apart the tapestry that weaves together the opulent Hindu tenets.
In the good old days, most Hindus did not eat meat, however, things changed after people from India began migrating to western countries. People can eat whatever they want, but the audaciousness of religious institutions to feed meat to a herbivorous animal, that too a cultural icon glorified as the embodiment of Lord Ganesh, is simply intolerable.
Humans have become so deeply consumed by greed and selfishness that they seem to have become disconnected from the creatures of the earth that imbue divinity and forgotten the deeper meaning of religious scriptures, making it difficult for them to contemplate the long-term consequences of their actions.
Additionally, many people don't realize that diseases contracted by animals most often spread among humans. For instance, the (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE) in cows became contagious to humans, West Nile virus present in birds and spread by mosquitoes also infected humans, both diseases caused numerous human deaths. And how can anyone forget the SARS pandemic? The virus originated in Civet cats (consumed by Chinese) and ended up killing hundreds of people in 2003.
As the world has experienced before, deadly diseases creep insidiously. Just as cows developed the BSE that originated from cattle feed over time, elephants could also develop fatal ailments from the unnatural food that they are being fed.
Perhaps this could explain why so many elephants have been dying in recent years, most of them from stomach impaction (serious digestive disorders). Maybe these animals are being fed what their bodies can't handle.
Although people in the elephant industry may disagree, it's becoming increasingly clear that unlike dogs, cats, and cattle, elephants cannot be "domesticated". They need to walk 16-18 hours a day to balance their massive bodies, feed on at least 100 varieties of vegetation in the forest to meet their dietary requirements, and take mud baths to stay cool and scrub off the parasites from their skin.
This is of particular significance for bull elephants. When they enter their mating season (musth) they become dominant, as their testosterone and energy levels surge, and they are overwhelmed by the urge to mate. In the wild, they wander for hours on end, fight with other bulls and mate with females.
But sadly, Kerala's elephants, mostly bulls, suffer agonizing torture in captivity. During musth, their primal instincts are cruelly denied. Unable to satisfy their urge to mate and burn their energies, they become aggressive. So they are starved of food and water in order to deplete their energies. After they come out of their musth, the torture is intensified and these defenseless animals are beaten ruthlessly for up to 48 hours by 10-12 drunken men, so the elephants would always remember that their masters are in control.
Captive Bull Jairam in Musth, Shackled Mercilessly
This vicious cycle continues 11 months of the year, every year, while the owners and brokers exploit these mute elephants for profits and mint money. And after the "festival season" they brag about providing restorative therapy for elephants that lasts for one month when they are forced to eat unnatural food.
Isn't this is the most heinous crime against nature? Who gave these irresponsible people the permission to feed meat that goes against the biology of elephants? Why does it surprise anyone that a whopping 26 of them in 2016 and 10 elephants as of April 2017 have died?
It hit me like a ton of bricks after three precious souls featured in Gods in Shackles died within a span of five months. I am grief stricken and finding it hard to recover. Meantime, if you are interested in joining our movement to end elephant slavery, click HERE.
In the ensuing weeks, I will share the stories of three majestic elephants who graced our planet and transformed my life forever before crossing over the rainbow bridge.
This blog has been updated.
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