According to the FBI, animal abuse is highly correlated with interpersonal, human-to-human violence. Serial killers often torture or kill small animals from an early age, and men who commit child abuse or domestic violence very frequently harm household pets as well. “If somebody is harming an animal, there is a good chance they’re also hurting a human,” said John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriff’s Association, in a 2016 interview.
A&E Real Crime spoke to Dr. Chris Hensley, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, for some insight on why these two behaviors are linked—and what we can do about it.
Why do people hurt animals in the first place? People who harm animals go after someone they perceive as weaker. Many serial killers feel a sense of rejection from their parents or from someone they love; there’s either a perceived rejection or a real rejection. Rather than going after the person who rejected them, they’ll start with something that’s weaker, and often that’s an animal. It’s a matter of power.
At what point does it progress to human beings? Some research suggests there’s ‘graduation’ hypothesis, where killers start with animals and move to human beings later—and it’s often someone they perceive to be weaker than they are: prostitutes, for example, or hitchhikers, or the elderly. Other people think that animal and human abuse starts at the same time, which is called ‘generalized deviance theory.’ That’s where a kid might hit another kid and then go home and smack their cat. I think it’s somewhere in the middle, a combination of both [theories]. Your research team asked prison inmates about their experience with animal abuse. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve found? Finding out that there’s a powerful link between bestiality (sexual relations between a human and an animal) and later interpersonal violence. We don’t know why there’s a connection there—it’s a fairly new area of study and there’s not a lot of literature, but what we know is people who commit bestiality at a young age are significantly more likely to commit interpersonal crime than those who don’t.
[Bestiality] is still rare, of course, but of the people who have committed it, they’re significantly more likely to go on to hurt human beings. Also people that have a method of abusing animals—like strangulation—usually use that same method in hurting human beings. [Serial killer] Henry Lee Lucas, for example, slit the throats of his animal victims as he was sexually abusing them, and then eventually did that with women.
How common is animal abuse? What are some warning signs? Most studies since 1980 have shown a link between childhood animal cruelty and adult interpersonal violence. We also know that it can be co-concurrent with child abuse or elder abuse. It’s very common in a domestic-violence situation, especially if it’s the victim’s animal.
We’ve seen multiple cases where you have someone engaging in domestic violence that ends up not only killing the person they’re abusing, but then they go back and kill the pets as well. I think it’s because the pet is an extension of [the victim].
In Chattanooga, if you’re in a domestic-violence situation, we have a family-justice center that will allow survivors to stay there and there’s an animal hospital nearby that will board your pets for free.
What else are states or law-enforcement officers doing to keep animals safe? Tennessee actually became the first state to have a registry—you can go online and look at who in the state has been convicted of animal cruelty, similar to sex-offender registration. Depending on the amount of cruelty, that person is prevented from owning animals. Tennessee is the only state that currently has one, but I know that the FBI is also looking at developing a database as well.
What else could states be doing? It’s taking a long time for states to really look at the impact that childhood animal cruelty has on later violence. A lot of states have dragged their feet in making animal cruelty a felony, and there are some states that don’t have any laws on the books related to bestiality at all.
Around 2002 and 2003 a lot of states got rid of sodomy statutes, and those states would usually have bestiality underneath that umbrella of sodomy. Those laws became nullified so states had to write their own laws for bestiality specifically, and some haven’t been quick about doing that.
How can we prevent animal abuse before it progresses into interpersonal violence?
To me, treatment is key for children who engage in animal cruelty. Oftentimes parents or caregivers will say “boys will be boys” or turn a blind eye to things, instead of admitting something is really wrong with their child. Most parents know when their kids are engaging in this behavior.
We need to say that any form of animal cruelty, should be unacceptable – if you see your kids doing it, that’s a warning sign, and something has to be done. If you see animals being mistreated please report it to the police.
Original story by Sarah Watts in A & E, Real Life Crime.
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As thousands of disabled animals are put to sleep across the UK, animal welfare charity Miracle’s Mission is looking for help to build the UK’s first centre for disabled animals – where they can be rehabilitated before finding their forever homes.
Victoria Bryceson, founder of Miracle’s Mission, says that countless disabled dogs are euthanased unnecessarily, despite the fact they could have a good quality of life with the right physical therapy and prosthetics.
She says, “At the moment amputation of one leg is common practice with UK vets, as dogs can live very well and still be very active with three legs, especially if it is a back leg, as most of the weight is on the front legs.
“However, when it comes to a double amputation leaving the dog with two legs, the general vets that I have seen in the UK have said it’s definitely not possible to do this as the dogs won’t be left with a good quality of life.”
As thousands of disabled animals are put to sleep across the UK, animal welfare charity Miracle’s Mission is looking for help to build the UK’s first centre for disabled animals – where they can be rehabilitated before finding their forever homes.
Many people may not be aware that dogs who have wheels and prosthetics can live as good a life as a fully able bodied dogs – much like Ella, who was found wandering the streets of Egypt, paralysed from the back down after being thrown off the top of a building.
Miracles’ Mission brought her to the UK, giving her a second chance. A wheelchair for dogs was made so she could get around, and soon Ella was running around with other dogs, living life to the fullest. Victoria is looking to let owners know that their disabled dogs could live happily, too, if only given a chance.
She adds, “The specialist hospitals seem more open to it as they have more experience in the area, but even they have problems where most of their dogs in these conditions are euthanased – not because they need to be but because, in their words, it is the owners of the dogs who can’t cope with the thought of a two legged dog. So there is a huge need for education in this area, amongst the public, dog owners and vets.
“General practice vets that have seen my journey with double amputee dogs have said that they have had a huge education on disabled animals and they can now see the possibilities and potential of a disabled dog. They are now much more open to using wheels and prosthetics. Dogs using wheels and prosthetics can live as good a life as a fully able-bodied dog and this is what I want to show people.
“I was stopped so many times when I was with a double amputee dog, to ask about her wheels as people hadn’t seen them before. They told me stories about their dogs back legs deteriorating and they thought the only option was euthanasia, but now they would look into wheels.”
The new centre will provide dedicated care for the most vulnerable dogs and cats. Animals under its care will receive thorough veterinary assessments, MRIs, surgeries, the fitting of prosthetics, and doggy wheels. Their personalised rehabilitation plan will include physiotherapy and hydrotherapy as well as daily massage and TENS machine stimulation.
Victoria says, “The animals coming into our care will initially all be stray dogs with nowhere else to go and no one else to help them. They will either have been born with some sort of condition, such as a bent leg that they can’t walk on or they will have been in an accident – for example hit by a car or they will have been abused.”
Once the patients have been emotionally and physically rehabilitated as much as possible, Miracle’s Mission get to work to find them all forever homes.
Victoria explains, “We will offer a full rehabilitation programme right through from assessment to surgery to rehabilitation, recovery and re-homing. This is again why education is so important, so that people become open to adopting disabled dogs.
“If we don’t re-home the dogs the centre will be full on day one and then we won’t be able to help anymore, so it is really desperately needed that the dogs be re-homed.”
There already is a waiting list of disabled dogs, but Victoria cannot accept them until she is able to finance the centre. She is currently crowd funding to raise £20,000 to secure a deposit for the centre, which if secured will be built in Yorkshire in 2020.
On a twilit night in Juneau, Alaska, in December 2003, and Nick and Sherrie Jans were walking with Dakotah, their yellow Lab, in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area not far from their house. Suddenly, a young black wolf appeared on the ice—and began running in their direction. Awestruck but scared, the couple watched as Dakotah broke loose and charged the predator, which was twice the size of the dog. The animals stopped yards apart and gazed at each other “as if each were glimpsing an almost-forgotten face and trying to remember,” recalled Jans. After a few moments, Dakotah ran back to her owners, and the three hurried home, listening to the wolf howl
The locals named him Romeo, and soon his presence was noted by the entire town. Most found it fascinating that Romeo was so friendly, while others assumed that this naturally predatory animal would give into his natural instincts at any moment, potentially attacking their pets and children.
During this time Nick Jans started documenting Romeo. When he did, he uncovered an emotional story, the heart of which describes the tenuous relationships between wild animals and the humans around them.
“The first thing I saw was tracks out on the lake in front of our house on the outskirts of Juneau,” Jans said in an interview with National Geographic. “A few days later, I looked out from my house and there was this wolf out on the ice. I’d had 20 years of experience around wolves up in the Arctic and immediately knew it was a wolf, not a dog. I threw on my skis and found him.”
According to Jans, Romeo seemed totally relaxed and friendly.
And it wasn’t just one interaction, either: Romeo remained his curious, friendly self for the better part of six years.
“For want of a better word,” Jans said, “The only thing I can say from a human perspective is that it amounted to friendship. If you wanted to be scientifically correct, it would be “social mutual tolerance.” But it was more than that. The wolf would come trotting over to say hi, and give a little bow and a relaxed yawn, and go trotting after us when we went skiing. There was no survival benefit. He obviously just enjoyed our company.”
Romeo’s behavior was definitely unusual, as many wolves tend to assert dominance by attacking dogs and other animals.
he wolf got his name because Jans and his family noticed how Romeo was kind of a flirt — particularly with their “Juliet,” a dog named Dakotah. Here, they’re standing nose-to-nose in what seems to be an all-too-perfect photo moment.
Romeo survived for years despite many mortal threats: scented traps, busy roads, illegal hunting, and even a poisoning attempt. He also had to contend with the natural dangers of starvation, injury, and attack by another pack of wolves. By almost any standard, his prolonged proximity to humans and dogs constituted incredibly rare behaviour. There was no obvious survival benefit to his socializing, yet the wolf lingered persistently, a late echo of the original process that must have initiated the domestication of dogs.
Romeo stayed in the area for as long as he lived — and he lived three times longer than most wild wolves do.
“Romeo was the single most transformative event of my life,” Jans said. “The amazing thing was Romeo’s understanding. It wasn’t just our understanding and tolerance. It was the combination of his and ours and the dogs’. We were these three species working out how to get along harmoniously. And we did.”
What happened to Romeo? Romeo disappeared in late September 2009. After some sleuthing, a supporter found he had been shot and killed by Juneau resident Park Myers III and his Pennsylvanian friend Jeff Peacock. Both men were arrested and ended up paying fines, serving a few years on probation, and losing hunting and fishing privileges for a limited time. In late November 2010, a memorial service was held for Romeo and this plaque was laid along a path where he once roamed.
“Nothing can take away the miracle that was Romeo and the years we spent in his company,” writes Jans. “Love, not hate, is the burden we carry.”
Nick Jans’ beautiful account of his unusual relationship is now in a book called A Wolf Called Romeo.
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Elephant rides are an attraction regularly offered to tourists in several Asian countries including Thailand. But to get there, the animals undergo a very particular training that is actually akin to real torture.
Between 35 and 40,000, is the number of wild Elephants that remain in Asia, according to estimates. A figure to which should be added the more than 15,000 domesticated Elephants. If you go to Asia one day, you will certainly meet these majestic pachyderms with big ears. You may even be asked to ride on their backs for a ride.
This attraction attracts millions of tourists every year in Asia, especially in Thailand. Nevertheless, it hides a reality that few tourists are aware of: to get there, the animals suffer a real torture. If the words can seem strong, they are not, as all those who have seen with their eyes what is really happening. Indeed, to be trained, Elephants undergo a ritual called “phajaan”.
The principle is simple: “break the spirit” of the Elephant. As two globetrotters, Seth and Lise, explain, “the origin of phajaan comes from the ancestral belief that one can separate the mind of an Elephant from its body so that it loses its reflexes and instinct natural wilderness and be completely under the control of man “. Concretely, it is to submit the Elephant until he agrees to do everything asked of him.
Beaten, hungry and sleep-deprived
From a practical point of view, it is only by using violence that the trainers achieve it. Phajaan lasts between 4 and 6 days and is carried out on young Elephants. The animals are separated from their mothers and locked in narrow cages where they are chained. Without being able to struggle or even move a limb, they are then repeatedly hit in strategic places, the most sensitive.
In addition to being beaten, Elephants are kept awake, deprived of food and water under the eyes of trainers (“mahout”) who recite prayers that can be translated as “Elephant, if you stop fighting, we do not you’ll hurt more, “says a documentary. The torture does not stop until after several days, when the trainers believe that the spirit of the Elephant is broken, that his behaviour has changed.
Out of his cage, the animal appears submissive, impressed by the fear of the man who subjected him to this torture. Then begins a real training that will consist in teaching the Elephant all the necessary commands or gestures intended to amuse the tourists. Once the specimen is formed, it can be used as an attraction for most of its life.
50% of Elephants die during the ritual
It is estimated that half of the Elephants would not survive phajaan. Others would become aggressive: about 100 mahouts are killed each year by their animals. Still others would go insane or have trouble with their experience, rendering them unusable for attractions. Most would then be killed.
The surviving Elephants are used to wander among the tourists, to beg or for work. In order for them to remain submissive, they are given a few booster shots by hitting them or pressing the sensitive spots again. In tourism, an Elephant can spend the day carrying people without a minute to rest, eat or drink. The rest of the time, most animals are tied up so that they are not dangerous.
A life that would often lead to the appearance of disorders including neurological. “If you ever have a chance to spot domestic Elephants, watch them,” Seth and Lise explain. “Chance or not, all the Elephants we’ve seen had signs of recent abuse, scars, obvious signs of poor health, some are more damaged than others, and it’s extremely rare to see one of these well-treated animals. “.
“It is largely because of tourists that this business works, so it is up to tourists to make the right decisions. The future and especially the well-being of thousands of Elephants is at stake,” they conclude in their blog.
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A two-legged street dog from Thailand that was shot in the head and left to die has been rescued by a Canadian family – and now even has her own wheelchair. Lara Pleasence, 51, from Montreal, Canada, first heard about Amira’s tragic story through the Soi Dog Foundation, based in Asia. Administrator and personal trainer Lara first saw Amira in a video posted by the rescue centre in Thailand in October 2020. “This poor dog who was born without legs, lived on the streets having litter after litter, then after nine years of struggling to survive, someone shoots her in the head,” Lara told Jam Press. “I just broke down and cried.”
Amira was treated for her head wound by the Soi Dog rescue centre who shared regular updates of her progress on social media. “Sweet Amira was always wagging her tail; it just broke my heart that she still trusted humans even after everything she’d been through. “I knew I had to contact the rescue to see if I could help in any way, maybe even offer to be her forever family, although they doubted that she would ever be well enough to travel.” After a tense wait, the Soi Dog Foundation contacted Lara to tell her that Amira had recovered enough to be put up for adoption. “I was so stoked and so worried about what my husband was going to say, since we already had three dogs,” Lara admitted. “There was something about Amira, this incredible connection I felt for her from the very first time I saw her. “I wanted to right all the wrongs that were done to her, I just felt compelled to try. “I wanted desperately to show her all the love, security, happiness that she deserved, that every dog deserves, and that this poor sweetie had been denied for so many years.”
To qualify to adopt Amira, Lara and her family had to go through a strict application procedure – including a virtual home visit, interview process and form-filling. “I was made aware that we would have to pay for her to be flown to Canada since, because of Covid, they didn’t have travellers who could take her on the plane for free.” “I think I would have mortgaged the house to get this sweet girl here.” When Amira touched down in Montreal in April 2021 after a 22-hour journey – which cost $2,000 – it was love at first sight. Lara said: “My husband was none too happy about even the idea of another dog since we already had three, but I told him that I had never felt this way about any rescues that I had seen. “I was so excited that we were getting her, I was practically bursting, and he knew that fighting it was a lost cause – happy wife, happy life.” Amira came with her wheelchair, after a man in Vietnam made a custom one for her and it was gifted to the pup by Soi Dog. “She literally came bouncing out of her crate and jumped all over us like the happiest kangaroo you’ve ever seen.” “She’d been in it for over 22 hours and didn’t even have an accident!” “We couldn’t believe the joy she exudes.
She is a true miracle. After everything she’s been through, Amira is fun-loving and outgoing. “She’s so trusting, she loves everyone she meets. “She absolutely loves to be held in your lap and will sleep there for as long as you will let her. “She is resilient and doesn’t let her past hold her back from trying new things or doing something a bit scary like canoeing or going on our paddleboard. “She is obsessed with our bed… If we’re not home, we have to block the stairs because we can’t risk her falling. “How a street dog, with no front legs, knows how to climb stairs is just one of Amira’s many mysteries. “She’ll let me kiss her nose 50 times in a row, my other three dogs will eventually pull their head away, but not Miss Amira, she loves it. “She gets these crazy puppy moments where she runs around on her nubs and jumps up on the furniture then flies right back off it. “These moments make my heart smile because it’s like she finally doesn’t have a care in the world and can just be a dog. “No more struggling for food or to keep her puppies safe and fed or hiding from bad people.”
Now, Amira enjoys a happy life spending her days with her family and playing at her favourite spot. Lara added: “She loves going to the dog park, even though many of the dogs get freaked out by the “transformer dog” with wheels and just bark at her.”
In videos posted to Instagram (@amira.amiracle), Lara shares Amira’s adventures with her new set of wheels. In one comical clip, which has been viewed over 725,000 times, Amira runs after a cat and ends up doing a headstand when she hits a curb. “She just waits for me to pick her back up and she keeps on going like it’s no big deal,” said Lara. Another video shows her gradually getting better at walking in a straight line with her wheels. Followers of Amira’s page are in love with the pup, and she regularly receives gushing comments. One person commented: “So beautiful to see this! You’re amazing, sweet and strong Amira.” “Love u Amira very much,” said another viewer. “She’s amazing and you’re amazing with her,” added another person. Lara is grateful for all the support and says she is touched by the comments she receives. “The people who follow Amira on Instagram are the sweetest,” she said. “They are so happy that she has a family that loves her now. “Some say Amira’s posts are their daily dose of ‘good feels’ or that her videos are ‘good for the soul’. “People feel they need to thank me for taking her, which is so kind, but I always tell them that it is my privilege to give her the best life that I possibly can,” “It’s the least I can do for such an angel. “I can only hope that her page may inspire someone else to help a special needs dog or donate to an organisation like Soi Dog Foundation so they can continue their amazing work.”
Kate Ward’s nickname “Camberley Kate” is said to have been given to her by historian Sir Arthur Bryant in his book “The Lion and the Unicorn”. It became the title by which she became known to everyone.
Kate’s early history is somewhat hazy – When interviewed she stated that she was born in Middlesbrough on June 13th 1895, and remained proud of her Yorkshire roots. Orphaned before she was ten, she was brought up by an aunt in a strict religious atmosphere. As a young girl she went into service, in Yorkshire and eventually found her way to Camberley. In 1943 Kate bought a cottage in Yorktown, and soon afterwards took in her first stray, a dog which had been about to be put down due to lameness.
As word grew, the number of dogs in her cottage increased – some being tied to her door, some left in carrier bags, others brought in by the police or other agencies. At the end of her life she estimated that she had looked after more than 600 dogs and local vet Geoffrey Craddock, a great admirer of Kate work testified that they were well looked after. An entry in the 1957 directory FOR Camberley reads “Ward K 218 London Road., Cam., Dogs Home”. In 1976 she stated that she had 34 dogs, although by 1977 she had cut this down to 19, as she had been told to go easier at the age of 82! The growth of other dog rescue centres helped in this regard. She also had at least one cat.
Kate and her olive-green painted hand cart, labelled STRAY DOGS, was a familiar sight locally as she pushed it from Yorktown to Camberley each day, through the town centre and up to Barossa Common, on a route suggested by the police. Some of the dogs were allowed to ride in the cart, others were attached to it with lengths of string, and occasionally a favoured few ran loose alongside. Inside the cart, there was usually some meat for the dogs and a shovel to clean any mess away. The dogs were controlled with the help of a whistle. Locals became used to the sight of Kate pushing her cart along the busy London Road although it never ceased to amaze outsiders.
As a local celebrity Kate and her dogs were much photographed, a situation she tolerated as long as the photographer gave a donation for the upkeep of the animals. She also sold her own photographic postcards, and gave short shrift to those who tried to take their own pictures. Generous supporters gave money to assist her work and some even left bequests. She was scrupulous that this money should be used only for its intended purpose: the dogs had their own bank account, administered by 2 trustees. She left money in trust for the few dogs left at her death.
If you gave her some money, she would INSIST you take a photo. That way she could not be accused of begging.
A diminutive figure with her shock of white hair and her beret, Kate defended herself and her work passionately against her critics, such as those who wanted her out of the town centre or who regarded the dogs as dangerous or a health or traffic hazard. On one occasion she rammed a new car which was blocking her way. She also had a number of disputes with the authorities. These clashes were often recorded in the columns of the press. However she won the backing of the local police for her work in taking abandoned dogs in off the streets.
In 21 August 1969 Kate was in the Camberley News fighting plans to introduce a bye law making it illegal for dogs to be out without a lead. This followed complains from residents of new housing estates, and concerns about road accidents caused by stray dogs. In her customary forthright fashion she condemned “The Council is nothing more than a collection of dog-haters. I think this will be rotten. It means that dogs will be chained up all day”. A proposal to ban dogs from the new precinct in Camberley also met with a terse response, particularly since she was in the habit of shopping at Sainsbury’s and leaving some of the dogs tied up outside. When protests about the local drag-hounds running out of control when being exercised attracted her support Kate, in typical fashion, addressed her complaint directly to the King. The Royal family continued to be a favourite route for correspondence. When a local schoolteacher complained that she had seen her beat her dogs with a stick, Kate immediately wrote in protest to the Queen. This was not their first encounter – when Princess Elizabeth got married one of the dogs sent a present of a dog lead.
As these anecdotes show, Kate was an excellent publicist. A local policemen recalled that occasionally a dog would get loose and be brought to the dog pound. If the Police Station was empty she would pay the fine quietly and readily, but if there was an audience she would protest vocally!
Following a series of strokes old age and ill-health forced her to leave her cottage and her remaining seven dogs were put into kennels. Her last weeks were spent at Kingsclear residential home and she died on 4th August 1979. Her funeral was at St Michael’s, Yorktown.
Despite her avowed dislike of people, Baptist Minister the Rev Chris Russell who officiated at her funeral, remembers her private generosity to those in need. This aspect of her life she kept anonymous, passing on her donations through third parties.
After her death, Camberley vet Geoffrey Craddock was quoted in the Camberley News as saying “Camberley has lost its most celebrated and best known character. She will be greatly missed by those of us who had the rare privilege of knowing her”.
During her lifetime, Kate’s fame spread far and wide. She featured In the national press and on television programmes such as “Nationwide” and “Tonight”. was featured on NBC in the United States and her story appeared in publications across Europe from France to Rumania. She also received the ultimate accolade of a feature in “Time” Magazine, and was photographed by Lord Snowdon. To her surprise, in 1967 she received an award from the magazine “Dog’s Life” for her work. In answer to the inevitable question, why she did it? her invariable reply was that she preferred dogs to humans.
Her home at 218 London Road was just a few doors along from the former Lamb pub, near the present Meadows roundabout, but Is no longer standing. The Katherine Court retirement flats were named after her at the suggestion of a local resident in 2000.
There are so many great lessons we can learn from the life of Kate Ward, both as responsible dog owners, human beings, and as pet rescue charities. Most of all Kate recognized the value of a photograph and how it could be used for the positive influence of others, to bring light to a cause, and to help raise money.
The Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC) is a conservation education centre in Limbe, Cameroon. Above all, they provide a solution to law enforcement agencies for where to place wildlife seized from the illegal wildlife trade. For all elements of their work, they collaborate with state and national government, communities, and other international and local NGOs to protect habitats and endangered species. In brief, they in-situ and ex-situ activities that include rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction, conservation education and advocacy, law reinforcement, creating alternative livelihoods to hunting, and research. Through a holistic approach, the LWC aims to ensure the survival of Cameroon’s unique flora and fauna.
Ultimately, there are three main pillars to our work: rescue and rehabilitation, education and community.
The Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC) is being hit hard by the current Covid-19 pandemic. With no volunteers or visitors coming to the centre, they have lost an important source of income, and much of their grant funding has been cut due to the global economic downturn. With travel and business restrictions happening across Cameroon, like in many other countries, they are struggling to obtain the food and medication needed every day for their rescued wildlife.
At this difficult time, they urgently need your help. They are dependent on your kindness to continue providing daily essential care to the more than 450 animals currently in their care.
Protect All Wildlife are supporting LWC continue their amazing work by selling these unique Ltd Edition tops to raise funds.
When Erikas Plucas came back home one ordinary day he found a baby moose lying all by herself just outside his gate. “The first sight of her was heart breaking,” said Erikas, who lives in Lithuania. “She was starved, dirty, sad, her fur was infested with flies, and she was so terrified of me when she first saw me but was too weak to run away, to even get up.” Once he established that the calf was all alone, Erikas approached it ever so carefully so as not to frighten it. On closer inspection, he noticed that it was a female moose who was no older than two weeks. She was in bad shape, and that’s when Erikas figured out what had happened to her mother.
Erikas believed that the female moose’s mother was killed by
hunters, and in search of safety, the baby moose ran onto the property of the
farm to evade the hunters. It also looked like the calf got injured on the way.
Like most people would have done, Erikas called up family and
friends to ask for advice and tips, but he was met with aggression. “‘It is
illegal, you should not do it. Let nature take care of it,” were the kind of
comments Erikas received.
Erikas decided to keep her, and a magical friendship formed between the animal and the man. He was excited to keep the female moose and named her Emma. The first few weeks were very challenging for him; it was as if fatherhood crept up on him from nowhere. Emma needed to eat every few hours and couldn’t be left alone for too long.
At first, Erikas would feed her every four hours, and even
sleep next to her in the barn or outside to make sure the animal felt safe.
Eventually, it was time to release the moose back into the wild. At first, Emma was terrified of the forest, but she felt safe with Erikas and therefore followed him into the wild as he helped her search for food. He hoped Emma would learn how to fend for herself like any other moose in the wild. So, would Emma finally move into the wild?
Erikas was thrilled to see Emma roaming free in the woods, but he knew that she could fall victim to the local hunters just like her mother did. He couldn’t stand the thought of losing his beloved Emma, but he couldn’t keep her on the farm either.
To avoid the inevitable, Erikas invited the local hunters over to try and get them on his side. “I had some hunters over for them to see her as not just a nice, warm steak with potatoes and vegetables on the table, but as a very intelligent and loving animal,” he said. Would his plan work?
Erikas’s plan went surprisingly well, and after the hunters witnessed the relationship between Emma and Erikas, they had a complete change of heart. Some of the hunters agreed not to hunt her, while others promised not to hunt moose at all.
The biggest victory for Erikas was that some hunters decided to put down their weapons and stop hunting altogether. He was ecstatic to hear the news, but then Emma showed up with an even bigger surprise than he could have imagined.
Emma visited her ‘dad’ every single day!
After Emma moved back into the wild, Erikas noticed her stomach looking rather round and significantly bigger. It was clear that she was pregnant, and at that moment, Erikas was reassured that Emma really was doing well in the wild. She was starting her own family! Soon Erikas will get even more visitors – and he couldn’t be happier about it.
“She turned my life upside down. Being a man, I became a mother to a moose,” Erikas said. “I’m her world now and she is mine,” Erikas said. “Sometimes I wonder was it me who saved her or is it the other way around?”.
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They are the country’s icon – but behind the dazzle of religious festivals, these giants of the wild are painfully abused in Kerala.
When Audrey Gaffney first read about Raju, an Elephant kept in chains with spikes embedded in his ankles, she couldn’t stop the tears pouring down her face. “In fact, I cried again and again: I found over the next few days I just couldn’t get this story out of my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about Raju,” she recalls.
“I couldn’t believe the cruelty of my race.”
The young Elephant had been snatched from his family, she
explains – his mother either would have been killed or spent weeks searching
and crying for him – and he was beaten into submission. Raju then spent the
next 50 years forced by his handler to beg in the street, starved, frightened
and suffering infected wounds to his flesh. By the time of his rescue, he had
resorted to eating plastic and paper.
Going on to discover that Raju was just one of thousands of
Elephants treated this way in India, Ms Gaffney, a single mother from
Liverpool, was spurred into becoming an activist for the first time. In the
four years since, she says, her life has changed beyond recognition as she
dropped her wariness of social media and teamed up with other volunteers
working to raise awareness of the horrors to which the temple Elephants of
India are subjected.
Taken from their families in the wild, shackled, beaten,
whipped and exploited like slaves, these Elephants – ironically India’s icons –
are painted and dressed in colourful decorations, to be paraded in regular
festivals and processions organised by religious temples.
They are the world’s forgotten Elephant victims of mankind. While the world has focused on the threat of extinction to Africa’s Elephants caused by the ivory poaching crisis and the cruelty of tourist Elephant rides in Thailand and Cambodia, the plight of their captive counterparts in India has remained largely hidden from public gaze.
Photographs and videos posted online have shown how, away from the glitz of the festivals, these sensitive, intelligent and naturally sociable creatures are tied to the spot by ropes or chains that eat into their skin and inflict agonising injuries to their legs; they are hit with metal rods or bull-hooks – sharp tools – and “trained” with punishments to hold their heads high.
When the six-month festival season begins in December, they are forced to walk for miles in searing heat on hot, stinging tar roads and ridden into processions noisy with crowds and fireworks – terrifying for a creature whose home is the forest. While still shackled in chains they are made to run races or carry people and are subjected to “painful and unnatural” “head-lifting” competitions.
Some Elephants are carted from one festival to another – in
some cases hundreds of miles – and despite suffering sometimes infected wounds
from the chains, are ridden in searing temperatures by people who apparently
see no harm in what they do.
The southern coastal state of Kerala has the highest number of festival Elephants, about 500 out of 3,500-4,000 across the country. Action for Elephants UK (AfE) brands Kerala “ground zero for elephant torture” and has called their illegal treatment “the worst case of animal cruelty in the world”. The plight of the 150 captive elephants in neighbouring Tamil Nadu is feared to be just as BAD.
Footage posted by local group Kerala Suffering Elephants (KSE) reveals how an Elephant named Gurvayur Nandan was paraded at a festival until dawn, before being transported for eight hours standing on the back of a truck in the scorching sun for eight hours without rest to a separate event that ran until midnight.
Malnourished and deprived of medical care, captive individuals of the endangered species rarely survive this “unrelenting neglect and torture” for a natural lifespan. The mortality rate in Kerala is shocking: 58 have died in 27 months, and already in 2018, 12 have succumbed, according to KSE. In seven years, the death toll is 350. “There could be no more damning proof of the hellish conditions and treatment meted out to these Elephants,” says Maria Mossman, founder of AfE.
For all the abuse, injuries and mental torment, it’s not the pain or infections that usually kills them early, it’s “intestinal impactions”: a blocked colon caused by being fed the wrong diet and insufficient quantities of water. The condition means they die “a miserable and painful” early death.
Campaigners have had enough. Gathering outside the Indian
High Commission in London, they staged a protest to draw the attention of the
New Delhi government and the world at large to the animals’ plight. Wearing
large Elephant masks and waving placards, they came from a variety of
backgrounds; some had travelled hundreds of miles to be there.
What unites these women – and yes, the campaigners are
nearly all women – is a shared abhorrence of the “abuse and torture”. They
adamantly deny attempting to interfere with religious culture.
“Temple Elephants are not part of any tradition,” explains
Their use in temples and festivals is not part of Indian
culture, nor do Hindu scriptures anywhere say that Elephants should be used in
temple rituals. On the contrary, the barbaric treatment of these elephants goes
completely against the core beliefs of Hinduism”
In fact, the cruelty behind Kerala’s rituals is thought to
have begun about a century ago as India’s nouveaux riches started to buy
Elephants to flaunt their wealth. Denise Dresner, a co-organiser of AfE,
recalls the heart-wrenching moment that opened her eyes to the scale of the
problem: “In 2013 I saw a video by Peta of Sunder the temple Elephant being
beaten. This was something I’d never witnessed before.
“An Elephant was on its side on the ground, struggling to
get up. His feet were shackled and he was being beaten violently by several
men, over and over again. He kept struggling, unable to get away from the blows
raining down on him. I learned later he had been kept in a dark shed and beaten
incessantly for seven years.
“That moment of seeing him being beaten and tortured was
seared into my brain and heart. It’s an image that will never leave me, one
that shows the extremes of human violence and brutality towards other living
beings. The unspeakable cruelty perpetrated on these majestic, sentient and
highly intelligent creatures must end.”
For Maria Harper, another protester, it’s the duration of
the suffering that is worst. “What upset me most was when I realised the length
of time the temple and festival Elephants suffer,” she says.
“They can endure cruelty and abuse for more than 50 years –
if they are unfortunate enough to survive that long. It’s a life sentence”
Seeing the photos and hearing the accounts is harrowing. But
Ms Mossman says it’s vital if their welfare is to improve. “The world needs to
know how handlers use banned weapons and restrain them with heavy shackles,
often tightened so severely that they cut through the flesh, causing raw
bleeding wounds that are seldom treated. “They are often forced to stand in the
same position 24/7, in their own urine and excrement, suffering from foot rot.
They are beaten and tortured time and again.”
Some mahouts think nothing of whipping an Elephant to make
it bend to his will, such as climbing into a truck. But the abuse doesn’t end
Most of Kerala’s captive Elephants are bulls. When they
enter their annual musth – mating season – their testosterone levels and energy
surge, so the mahouts tighten their shackles further until the creatures are
unable to move. In addition, food and water are restricted to weaken them.
But then comes the cruellest torture yet. Several men, often
drunken, beat the chained Elephant for up to 72 hours relentlessly. The
practice is based on a superstitious belief that the Elephants may have
forgotten their commands during their musth, and is designed to break the
Elephant’s spirit, “reminding him that his masters are in control”.
All bull Elephants in Kerala undergo this horror every year.
These practices are banned by the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals Act 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, but campaigners point
out that the laws are routinely ignored.
Elephants are paraded with no ownership papers or parade certificates, or with fake fitness certificates, breaking the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which says they cannot be exploited for profit, AfE says. Recent laws banning the use of disabled, sick or pregnant elephants in festivals are also ignored.
“The plight of these Elephants is arguably the worst case of
animal abuse in the world. The suffering that temple Elephants endure is
“India has very good laws, but they are ignored daily and
the abusers go unpunished,” says Ms Mossman. “Not only are Elephants
intelligent and sentient beings, they are an endangered species. It is the duty
not only of India to enforce the laws to protect them, but of the world to hear
their cries of suffering and respond to end the brutality against them.”
She and KSE agree that making profits and keeping the status
quo are at the root of the problem. “These sentient animals are seen only as
commodities, earning huge sums of money for their owners and the temples,” says
Ms Mossman. “Exploited under the veneer of culture and religion, they are big
business. Everyone, from the chief minister downwards, has a stake.”
The 3,000 temples that rent out Elephants to festival
organisers are run by four devaswom (socio-religious trusts), appointed by the
state government, and each temple earns many millions of rupees from festivals.
Any Elephant that makes it beyond 60 is purposely neglected
and abused – treated as a disposable item – so the owners can make hefty
insurance claims, according to AfE.
Sangita Iyer, who was born and raised in Kerala and made an
award-winning 2016 film, Gods in Shackles, revealing what goes on behind the
scenes at the festivals, is convinced greed is to blame.
“Elephants are allowed to die so the owners can receive the pay-outs.
There’s a whole insurance industry surrounding this, in which the owners and
brokers make the most profit.”
A dead tusker that suffered intestinal blockages is covered
with a cloth. Most captive elephants die young after years of pain (Action for
According to India’s Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, which in 2014 petitioned the Supreme Court of India to order better conditions for the animals, another factor is young men showing off. “Today’s mahouts are in it for the glamour and the thrill. Unlike the mahouts of the old, who learnt the ways of handling the Elephants over time, these guys know only oppression and violence,” one rescuer says.
Nor does Ms Iyer particularly blame festival-goers. “Most
people are unaware of the crushing burden these Elephants carry, in the literal
sense, on their backs, and in their hearts and souls. Most people don’t realise
the brutality that these sentient beings undergo to entertain them. They are so
hypnotised by the majestic, ornate Elephants and lost in their own selfish
world that they don’t even look at the raw bleeding ankles.”
However bad the suffering of the individuals, the abuse has
wider repercussions. KSE warns it could even lead to the extinction of Indian
“As each of these Elephants die from overwork, intestinal
impactions etc, the surviving ones are going to be overworked even more. It’s a
vicious cycle and will probably end only when there are no Elephants left”
Taking young Elephants from the wild has a serious impact on
wild Elephant populations in India and elsewhere, activists fear. People’s
lives, too, are being put at risk. Some elephants, driven frantic by their
suffering, break free and run amok. Behind media reports of people being killed
by a rampaging Elephant there almost always lies a story of a brutalised
There have also been 300 incidents of Elephants running amok
in the first three months of this year. Earlier this month there were
unconfirmed reports of Elephants running amok at festivals in Ernakulam and
Kollam districts. Unofficial counts put it at 20 incidents in one week.
Action for Elephants is warning prime minister Narendra Modi
these rituals are not just harming the country’s most iconic wildlife, but also
India’s multi-million-pound tourism industry and reputation. “We hope tourists
and visitors to India will make ethical choices and will shun all forms of
Elephant tourism that use elephants in any unnatural way, whether in festivals
or for trekking or rides or any other purpose,” a statement by the group says.
“In this day and age, when we have gained so much knowledge about the intelligence, emotional capacity, and social bonds of these majestic creatures, and when we know how endangered they are, we believe that all countries have a duty to protect them, treat them humanely, and give them sanctuary.”
India is positioned to take a global lead in ethical
wildlife tourism, the letter says.
As long as the current system of cruelty is allowed to
continue, the more it will negatively impact India’s tourism and tarnish
India’s reputation and image in the world
Signatories include primatologist Jane Goodall, TV star
Michael Palin, author Jilly Cooper, TV presenter Anneka Svenska and radio
presenter Nicky Campbell, as well as MP Zac Goldsmith.
Filmmaker Ms Iyer believes educating the public is the only
way to achieve change. “Ignorance and arrogance make for a bad potion, and
unless and until we are able to create attitude shifts in the public eye,
there’s little hope for these sentient beings.
“There is no point in fighting the owners or brokers.
Enlightening the people is the only way to stop the audience from participating
in festivals that use live Elephants and reduce demand for such cultural
festivals. When the demand dies down, the Elephants will be ultimately phased
The Indian High Commission in London did not respond to a
request by The Independent to comment and refused to send anybody to open the
door when visited in person.
There are some glimmers of hope, however. Occasionally, news
of progress made by welfare workers on the ground emerges, and an elephant
rescue can become a stand-out memory for followers. The film that startled Ms
Gaffney was called Raju the Elephant Cried on the Day he was Released from
Chains. His rescue made headlines.
Ms Dresner says she followed each step in a protracted legal case to free Sunder with her heart in her throat. “Finally, when he was freed, the joy was overwhelming. Like so many others, I then followed his progress in his new home at Bannerghatta Biological Park, crying (happily) with every bit of good news: his healing leg, his first swim in the pond, his making new friends, his putting weight on his skeletal frame.”
Fellow demonstrator Joanne Smith agrees. “The terrible
delays with the court case were so hard to take but the day Sunder was given
his freedom was thrilling,” she recalls. “It proved to me that we can make a
difference with hard work and determination.”
In the past two years, three temples have done away with
renting Elephants for festivals. One used mechanical stand-in; another used an
8ft dummy made of plaster of Paris and bamboo. Organisers say they may even
offer the model to neighbouring temples for their own festivals, allowing the
idea to catch on.
The London protest and letter also have the support of
Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley, whose message was: “One of the most
influential Indians of all time, Mahatma Gandhi, said: ‘The greatness of a
nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’
“India! Listen to his words and implement them. The world
supports your laws against cruelties to temple Elephants, but only you can
ensure that they are enforced.”
And that, say campaigners, really would be worth a
I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! bosses ‘banned the use of live insects for bushtucker trials’ after facing backlash from animal rights activists.
According to reports, the apparent change to the format of
the show will remain a permanent fixture.
‘They have been planning this for some time,’ an insider
claimed to the Mirror. ‘And actually, last year beach worms were the only
critters eaten live but this time around they’ve decided to implement the
change fully and permanently.’
This comes just days after animal rights activist Tayana Simons wrote a piece for Metro.co.uk calling for the use of all live animals in the programme’s trials to be banned.
In the column, Tayana writes: ‘Not only does this harm the animals involved, but it also normalises animal cruelty to audiences of millions, including young children.
‘This isn’t just a view shared by animal rights organisations such as Viva! which has campaigned against the show since it began, celebrities such as Chris Packham and Lucy Watson have also voiced their opposition to the use of animals in the trials.
‘The Bushtucker Trials epitomise a flippant disregard for non-human animal life which does not belong in this century. They need to end.
‘If the animals used in the show were socially valued animals such as cats or dogs, there would be an uproar at scenes of them being grabbed and flung by the neck, tossed around in overcrowded caves or having their body parts eaten on live TV.’
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