Peering into the camera with fierce determination, his face appearing scarred by an ankus, cricketer Rohit Sharma features in a striking new advertisement from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India that reads, "Try to Relate to Elephants' Fate -- Ban Animal Circuses". The ad was shot by leading photographer Gaurav Sawn, and Sharma's hair styling and make-up were done by Neha Kamra.
"Animals deserve respect, not to be imprisoned in small enclosures and forced to perform degrading and meaningless tricks out of fear of punishment", says the Mumbai star, who opens the batting for India in ODIs. "We cricketers love our sport, and we willingly participate. But animals in circuses are beaten into performing against their will."
Elephants and other animals in circuses are subjected to chronic confinement, physical abuse and psychological torment. Whips and other weapons -- including ankuses, which are heavy, sharp steel-tipped rods -- are often used to inflict pain on elephants and beat them into submission. Following a nine-month investigation of circuses by a team that included representatives from PETA and its sister organisation Animal Rahat, the Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body operating under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, decided to stop the registration of elephants used to perform in circuses. However, this decision has yet to be implemented, says a PETA press statement.
Sharma is the captain of the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. Shortly after embarking on his international career at the age of 20, Sharma quickly became a highly regarded permanent fixture on the cricket scene. In 2013, he started playing as an opening batsman for the Indian ODI team and is the second-leading scorer in ODI innings.