Today, animal protection groups People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and the CAPE Foundation held an emergency news conference seeking the urgent intervention of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as horse owners refuse to participate in veterinary health camps organised by the Animal Resources Development Department of the Government of West Bengal in association with the animal protection groups.
PETA India is appealing to the chief minister to ensure that suffering horses used for rides and to haul tourist carriages near Victoria Memorial receive essential veterinary care and that the state government appoints a law enforcement committee to seize unfit and unlicensed horses. PETA India calls for such horses to be sent to a sanctuary and urges the state to frame a policy to replace the use of horses in the city with sleek e-carriages as Mumbai has already done.
In the latest assessment report , which includes photos and videos of more than 30 suffering horses, the groups point out that the horse and carriage owners refused to participate in the three-day veterinary health camp, from 10 to 12 May, for the second time. The health check-up camps were organised as per an order issued by the Calcutta High Court on 5 April in response to a petition filed by PETA India and the CAPE Foundation seeking a prohibition on the use of horses for rides in Kolkata. However, as per ground assessments done by the veterinary team, including state government and PETA India veterinarians, during and after the camp, a majority of the horses were suffering from severe injuries, malnourishment, lameness, and visual impairment yet received no veterinary care. Some horses were also found fitted with illegal spiked bits, which lacerate their mouths, to painfully control them.
“Kolkata horse owners would rather ignore court orders than get animals treated for lameness, malnourishment, and festering wounds,” says PETA India Advocacy Officer Samit Roy. “PETA India is calling on authorities to prohibit horse-drawn carriages in Kolkata and consider replacing them with electric carriages. E-carriages have successfully replaced horse-drawn carriages in Mumbai and provided employment.”
The horse owners also avoided the first three-day veterinary health camp from 19 to 21 April. Earlier, the court had considered two previous assessment reports submitted by the petitioners, which also provided evidence of the continuous suffering endured by the horses.
All these assessment reports by PETA India and the CAPE Foundation establish that more than 100 horses used for rides in the city are anaemic, malnourished, and chronically starved; some suffer from severe injuries, including bone fractures; and many are forced to live amid their own waste on filthy, decrepit, and illegally occupied premises in the city, including an encroachment area under a flyover. A factsheet in the report lists 10 road accidents in Kolkata involving horses, highlighting the dangers of using them to haul tourists. Such accidents cause the animals unnecessary pain and suffering and pose potential safety risks to the passengers in the carriages and commuters on the road.
PETA India has submitted its recommendations to the West Bengal government for a policy to end the use of horses for tourist rides. Based on the complaint filed by PETA India and the CAPE Foundation, Kolkata police have registered three first information reports and three non-cognisable offence reports against horse owners for causing suffering to animals in apparent violation of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.