India Thursday de-recognised six circus companies for continued cruelty against captive animals.

A decision was also taken to cancel the licence of another circus company.

The companies de-recognised by the Federal Ministry of Environment and Forests include Gemini, Jumbo, Rajkamal, Jamuna, Moonlight and Rambo. Performance licence of SAM Circus was cancelled which had failed to apply for recognition by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and the CZA, which work under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, took a joint decision to cancel licenses of half a dozen circus companies after their dissatisfactory response to showcause notices issued to them earlier.

Showcause notices were issued to these companies following a nine-month long investigation of 16 circus companies by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA in its report submitted to the ministry said their investigations revealed cruelty to animals including use of torture devices, constant chaining or caging and neglect.

The Central Zoo Authority had formed a team of evaluators, including veterinarian and wildlife department and AWBI representatives who visited these circuses following the PETA report and confirmed they were treating animals with cruelty.

“AWBI should take necessary steps to deregister the animals used in the circuses in a phased manner wherever cruelty is involved. AWBI should also make arrangements for rehabilitation of the deregistered animals. AWBI should not register any new animals hereafter,” the ministry circular said.

According to a PETA spokesperson, the action means affected circuses can no longer train, exhibit or use any wild animals protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, including elephants.

Forest departments of various states have been asked to cancel ownership certificates of these seven circus companies and confiscate the elephants and move them to a sanctuary.

PETA report revealed that torture devises were being used to train animals. Several animals had died due to inadequate care by drunken staff. Elephants, dogs, cats, birds and other animals were constantly either chained or caged. These animals showed signs of severe psychological distress leading to instances of even self mutilation.

PETA has now demanded the Ministry of Environment and Forests to put a blanket ban on use of animals in circuses in lines of such bans imposed in Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Greece.