Bangladesh HC suspends permits to use elephants for entertainment purposes

The court issues a rule asking why the failure of the authorities to prevent the mistreatment of elephants should not be deemed illegal

Published : 25 Feb 2024, 10:28 AM
Updated : 25 Feb 2024, 10:28 AM

The High Court has put a freeze on the issuance and renewal of licences for private ownership of captive elephants for circus performances, parades and other purposes.

The bench of Justice Naima Haider and Justice Kazi Zinat Hoque issued the order on Sunday in response to a writ petition against the mistreatment of elephants.

The court questioned the legality of granting new licences to private owners and renewing existing ones to use elephants for entertainment purposes.

It also issued a rule asking why the failure of the authorities to prevent the mistreatment and cruelty towards elephants should not be deemed illegal.

Advocate Shakib Mahbub represented the petitioners, while Deputy Attorney General Amit Dasgupta appeared on behalf of the state.

The writ petition, filed on Feb 18 by actress Joya Ahsan and the animal rights group People for Animal Welfare Foundation (PAW), sought a directive to prohibit the exploitation of elephants in commercial and political events.

Rakibul Haq Emil, founder and chairman of the PAW Foundation, highlighted the group's longstanding efforts to halt the inhumane treatment of captive elephants, prevent their use for entertainment, and stop extortion practices involving these animals.

The foundation has twice organised protests outside the Forest Department office.

"Despite assurances from the Forest Department, no significant measures have been taken. Our repeated pleas for action against the mistreatment of elephants have gone unanswered," Emil said.

"The continuation of these unethical businesses and illegal extortion by certain unscrupulous individuals, resulting in loss of lives and property, is unacceptable."

The writ petition challenges the Forest Department's authority to grant licences for using elephants in circuses, highlighting the cruel separation of elephant calves from their mothers and their subsequent training through severe abuse for circus performances and extortion schemes.

"The trainers, or mahouts, use a metal hook to strike sensitive areas on the elephant's body, coercing them into obeying commands, including those for extortion purposes. Such practices blatantly contravene the Wildlife Conservation and Safety Act, 2012, and the Animal Welfare Act, 2019," the petition argues.