A video of an elephant on a truck is going viral with the claim that it shows how PETA mistreated the pachyderm while forcing it to go where they were taking it. The claim says this is a Kanchi Mutt elephant.
But we found that this is a false claim and this incident has nothing to do with PETA.
The video, which compiles several clips together, shows an elephant on a truck, which can be seen bleeding from the ears. The animal can then be seen trying to get off the truck and falling off it and later walking down a road with someone who appears to be a handler and into a gated compound. The message claims that the elephant is being tortured by animal rights group PETA.
The tweet, by a handle called Indu Makkal Katchi (Official) had over 3,000 retweets and comments and 5,000 likes at the time this story was published. Indu Makkal Katchi is a right-wing Hindu nationalist party in Tamil Nadu.
We also found other people sharing the same message and video on social media.
The video was also shared with a similar claim on YouTube as well.
WHAT WE FOUND
Firstly, we found that the party’s Twitter handle had tweeted the same video on 29 June, without any mention of the PETA claim.
This tweet told a completely false story, saying the elephant jumped out of the truck when it heard its mahout’s call, and that an NGO was involved in the incident.
Secondly, we saw that PETA had replied to the tweet claiming the group was involved in the incident, denying any role in it and calling it fake news.
Further, we found that the incident caught on camera here took place on 14 May 2016, indeed involving three Kanchi Mutt elephants, but had no relation to PETA at all.
What had happened is that in 2016, three elephants, Sandhya, Indu and Jayanthi were handed over by the Kanchi Mutt or the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam to the founders of Tree Foundation, an NGO, to provide them a happy home closer to their natural habitat. Accordingly, the three pachyderms were to be moved to a set up with a chain-free facility at Marakkanam, in Kurumbaram village, Villupuram, Tamil Nadu.
A Deccan Chronicle report from 2016 said that this decision was taken after the authorities of the Mutt in Kancheepuram district took a decision to provide rest and rehabilitation to three elephants that suffered injuries during their time in the temple.
We found that the article also mentioned that one of the elephants, Sandhya, jumped off the truck and was sheltered at a nearby village before she joined the other two elephants at Marakkanam. But we found no mention of PETA being involved anywhere.
In 2019, following a Public Interest Litigation, the Madras High Court on 19 September ordered all the three elephants be moved to an elephant care facility at MR Palayam Elephant Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Trichy within four weeks. The Quint accessed the order of this Madras High Court too and found no mention of PETA having been involved in the elephants being moved to the facility at Marakkanam here either.
Additionally, PETA shared a letter about the incident from 2016 on their Twitter handle, which showed that the parties involved in the movement of the three elephants were the Kanchi mutt, and two NGOs - Tree Foundation and Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre.
Letter from Kanchi Mutt in favour of retiring three elephants to sanctuaries to live unchained, recognizing temple can’t provide needed care, & urging devotees to support retirement.
PETA India’s wishes for Lakshmi are aligned with what Kanchi Mutt’s were for these elephants. pic.twitter.com/NsLvATwj6L
— PETA India (@PetaIndia) August 7, 2020
Additionally, The Quint also reached out to Suparna Ganguly, Co-founder and trustee of Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), who called the claim about PETA or the animal being tortured fake news.
Ganguly had partnered with Supraja Dharini, Founder, Tree Foundation to rehabilitate the elephants in 2016 and was an eye-witness present on the scene of the incident. She said that PETA was not involved and that the elephant jumped out of the truck over some confusion.
“A terrible fake news. Poor Sandhya was in a truck and when her old mahout called out her name, she is so used to obedience that she calmly stepped out of the truck and walked towards the pavement,” she said.
“This incident didn’t happen recently but when Sandhya was being transported with the permission and blessings of the temple and written permission of the forest department to a better facility. PETA was never involved,” she added.
Therefore, Indu Makkal Katchi is clearly sharing an an old video from 2016 with a false claim to malign PETA.
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