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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 December 2006, 17:49 GMT
Call to end elephant polo links
Elephant polo team
Elephant polo has similar rules to horse polo
Animal rights campaigners have called on a whisky firm to end its sponsorship of the elephant polo world cup.

Advocates For Animals has urged Chivas Regal Whisky and the Duke of Argyll, who has captained victorious Scotland teams, to end their links to the sport.

The group claimed forcing the animals to take part was "totally unnatural" and could lead to serious injury.

However, a spokesman for Chivas said he was confident the animals that took part were well treated.

Both Chivas and the duke said they would not be involved in the sport if there was any cruelty to the animals.

The call coincided with the final of the World Elephant Polo Tournament in Nepal, which Scotland won for the third year in a row.

The sport, which began in 1982, is based on rules similar to horse polo, with four elephants on either team.

Each carries an expert who "drives" the animal, leaving the player to concentrate on the game.

Cruel training is used to make elephants perform unnatural behaviours
Ross Minett
Advocates for Animals

However, Advocates for Animals claimed the animals were often left with open wounds after training, which it said involved elephants being prodded with a sharp steel hook until they obeyed instructions.

In a letter to the Duke of Argyll - who is not taking part in this year's tournament - the group's director Ross Minett said: "It is hard to see any justification for using these magnificent animals in this manner.

"Cruel training is used to make elephants perform unnatural behaviours.

"Treating these wonderful animals with such a lack of respect only encourages further exploitation."

However, a spokesman for Chivas Brothers defended the company's involvement in the event.

"Chivas Brothers would never sponsor any activity which would lead to cruelty to animals and we are confident that the animals taking part in the elephant polo championships are well treated and have responsible owners," he said.

"In addition, each elephant polo event we sponsor raises money for charities for elephants or local communities where tournaments are held."

'Exploiting animals'

Mr Minett acknowledged that some elephant polo matches raised funds for conservation projects.

However, he said: "The ends do not justify the means.

"There are other ways of raising such funds without exploiting animals.

"Our views are supported by a wide range of Asian animal welfare and conservation organisations."

Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, said: "Instead of promoting respect for wild elephants and sympathy for domestic ones, elephant polo merely promotes the idea that elephants are amusing and controllable.

"We live in an enlightened age, where we should abandon practices that are not morally justifiable."

The Duke of Argyll insisted that metal hooks were never used in the events he has taken part in.

"They use short bamboo sticks to tap the elephants on the head," he said.

Elephants trumpet their success
11 Sep 05 |  Scotland
Elephant polo stars just champion
06 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Scots lose elephant polo final
21 Sep 03 |  Scotland

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