When An­i­mals are Fair Game

Sport­ing spec­ta­cles have a his­tor­i­cal fas­ci­na­tion for an­i­mals. Be it sac­ri­fice or cel­e­bra­tion, the cruel tradition con­tin­ues

Tehelka - - ANDHRA PRADESH -

and Man­dev­ille — are de­signed as two drops of steel. Had the games panel fallen for the usual an­i­mal theme — jaguar (Mex­ico City), beaver (Montreal), bear (Moscow), ea­gle (Los Angeles), tiger (Seoul), sheep dog (Barcelona), platy­pus (Sydney) and gi­ant panda (Bei­jing) — Boyle might have been tempted to parade a live mas­cot a la our very own Kut­ti­narayanan alias Appu.

I killed my school’s chances of win­ning an in­ter­school cre­ative writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion, or so my teach­ers said, by “mis­han­dling the theme”. It was 1982 and we were asked to write on Appu, the mas­cot of the Delhi Asiad. I carped and carped about the plight of a five-year-old ele­phant that was be­ing trained to stand on one leg in the mas­cot po­si­tion. No prize came my way and I was happy the teach­ers blamed the “neg­a­tive slant” of the dis­qui- sition rather than my lim­ited writ­ing skills.

Thris­sur’s Kut­ti­narayanan was even­tu­ally spared the trauma of pos­ing as Appu and ended up re­gal­ing chil­dren at the Games Vil­lage. But not all an­i­mal mas­cots have been as lucky, cer­tainly not the six tigers Mike I-VI at Louisiana State Univer­sity, the three tigers Tom I-III at the Univer­sity of Mem­phis, lions Leo and Una at the Univer­sity of North Alabama, Al­bert the al­li­ga­tor at the Univer­sity of Florida, Lacumba the jaguar at South­ern Univer­sity, bears Joy and Lady at Bay­lor Univer­sity, and about 40 tiger cubs, al­ways named Obie, used by Ohio’s Mas­sil­lon High School since 1970.

Be­yond Amer­i­can school and col­lege leagues, even the great tradition of Olympics has been cruel to an­i­mals. In the an­cient days, 100 oxen used to be sac­ri­ficed to please Zeus and pro­vide for a gala feast for the spec­ta­tors. In an early edition of the mod­ern Olympics, live pi­geon shoot­ing claimed 300 birds. Dur­ing the 1900 Games at Paris, the event ended with dead and injured birds strewn all over.

The gen­tle­man’s game has not been too gen­tle on an­i­mals ei­ther. The vil­lage of Ham­ban­tota in Sri Lanka fears an es­ca­la­tion in hu­manele­phant con­flict with rapid mega de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing the world’s largest cricket ground, in this ele­phant ter­ri­tory. Re­mem­ber that lit­tle jumbo in blue over­alls, made to play Stumpy the mas­cot dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral match of the 2011 World Cup? The cam­eras quickly shifted fo­cus to a lone­some wild ele­phant in the shrub for­est just out­side the newly-built sta­dium. I doubt it was cheer­ing.

• Olympic cir­cus Danny Boyle’s open­ing cer­e­mony will fea­ture live an­i­mals

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