Sunder the baby elephant has spent much of his miserable life chained with metal spikes in a dark shed unable to take a step in any direction to escape the abuse his handler regularly inflicted on the lonely animal.
Sunder’s plight, discovered by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has rallied compassionate celebrities to join the international effort to free the young prisoner.
Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney took a break from his Olympic rehearsals to send a letter to ministers in India urging them to free the miserable elephant from his horrendous ordeal warning them that “the world is watching.”
Photos of Sunder with an untreated severe eye injury inflicted by a hooked poker from his boy handler have created so much anger that his handler is now on the run and hiding after the elephant’s heartbreaking conditions became public.
McCartney went on to write:
‘I have seen photographs of young Sunder, the elephant kept alone in a shed at Jyotiba Temple and put in chains with spikes.
‘I appeal to you to do what is right here and get Sunder post-haste to rehabilitation in the Forest.
‘Years of his life have been ruined by keeping him and abusing him in this way and enough is enough.
‘I most respectfully call on you to use your authority to get Sunder out, placed in your protective custody and eventually integrated into a herd in the forest.’
Sunder, like many once-wild baby elephants living in temples in India, was dragged away from his family in the forest and forced to become a prisoner of a temple where he represents the Hindu god Ganesha.
Activists report that these wild animals suffer from routine beatings to keep them submissive, as well as untreated medical conditions and unsuitable food leaving them malnourished and in pain from being immobilized on concrete floors surrounded by their own feces.
McCartney, who has taken on a myriad of animal rights causes such as the millions of cats and dogs brutally killed for their furs which are sold mislabeled in the United States and England, has long been an active voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.
Baywatch beauty Pamela Anderson, another great animal ally, has also been deeply affected by Sunder’s sad tale.
Anderson wrote to Vinay Kore, leader of the Jan Surajya Shakti Party who had originally donated Sunder to the temple, pleading for the release of the young elephant, who she compares to her son.
“I am in tears over the plight of the little elephant, Sunder, who you so kindly gave to Jyotiba Temple with the best of intentions,” Anderson wrote. “I am sure you are also crushed by what has been done to this little soul. He is the age of one of my sons, and as sensitive as anyone’s child. Like other victims of abuse, he will be scarred for life mentally, as he already is physically.”
Elephants, along with humans, great apes and cetaceans, have what’s known as “spindle cells” in their brains believed to be responsible for empathy, social organization and intuition about the feelings of others among other things.
Many experts believe the existence of these cells, which are found in the exact location in all mammals that have them, denote the ability for higher-order thinking and feeling.
Anderson said it spot on, little Sunder is just like one of our own children, suffering alone and waiting for one of the many faces that pass by him every day to show him the warm and love any baby mammal craves.
Situations like this leave us questioning how a person could hurt an innocent baby elephant, and how so many could turn a blind eye to his suffering as they visited the holy temple.
We can only imagine that his boy handler responsible for his abuse was denied that warmth and love himself, leaving him sick inside and only capable of perpetuating that lack of love.
The single greatest act we can perform to perpetuate compassion is to give it freely to one another, especially people like Sunder’s boy handler.
Meaties love to remind me that Hitler was a vegetarian. I like to think that someone with so much hatred for humans must have grown devoid of love from his parents, but maybe found the love he craved from an animal.
We cannot discount the power of cruelty, nor the awesomeness of love, in shaping the world around us. It’s so easy and natural to hate the people responsible for cruelty, but hatred won’t change anyone’s mind.
Let’s challenge ourselves to show unconditional compassion, and, meanwhile, let’s show little Sunder that the world is watching, and working hard to make his life a thing of beauty, rather than a miserable burden.