People for Ethical Treatment of Animals India on Monday wrote to all political parties urging them not to use animals for election campaigns, PTI reported. In a letter dated April 1, PETA informed parties that the Election Commission of India had banned the use of animals for campaigning in the Manual on Model Code of Conduct. The animal rights organisation also asked parties to direct their cadre to comply with the provisions.

The Lok Sabha elections will be held from April 11 to May 19. The Model Code of Conduct is a set of guidelines governing the behaviour of political parties to ensure free and fair elections. The guidelines come into force once the election dates are announced. The manual is a document to “inform and educate about model code of conduct”, according to the Election Commission’s website.

The manual dated March 2019 includes a section on “Use of Animals in Election Process”. The section was introduced after appeals from PETA, the animal rights organisation claimed in a post on its website last month. The section says:

“The Election Commission has advised the political parties and candidates, to refrain from using any animal for election campaign in any manner. Even a party, having reserved symbol depicting an animal should not make live demonstration of that animal in any election campaign of the Party/any of its candidate.” 

The manual also bans display of animals for roadshows.

In its letter, PETA said that the use of animals in election campaigns was “unnecessary, archaic, and cruel”. “During these campaigns, animals are terrified by being forced into the middle of screaming crowds,” the letter added. “They’re often beaten, whipped, kicked, and terrorised while being paraded through the streets and shoved by shouting mobs. They’re also often forced to carry loads in excess of their physical capacities, denied adequate food and water, and seriously injured in the mayhem.”

PETA also urged citizens to inform the Election Commission through its cVIGIL app if they see political parties violating the guideline. The app allows users to report violations and supplement it with pictures or two-minute videos along with a short description of the alleged offence.

In 2012, the Election Commission had issued a similar advisory to political parties against the use of animals for campaigns, reported IANS, saying it goes against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Subsequently, following appeals from PETA, several state election commissions also banned the use of animals for party rallies, the organisation said.