ITV’s period drama Beecham House has come under fire for using captive elephants during filming.
Campaigners have criticised the broadcaster for legitimising animal cruelty, insisting the beasts are not designed to carry weight on their backs.
Scenes in Sunday night’s opener were filmed in Jaipur, India – the same spot where Monty Don rode an elephant in his BBC show Paradise Gardens.
Audrey Gaffney of the Ethical Bucket List said: “Captive elephants are taken from the wild when young, torn from their herd, then they are subjected to brutal training methods to make them subservient.
It’s astounding that once again researchers have failed to highlight how inappropriate it is for an organisation like ITV to participate in and support this.”
Wildlife advocate Dominic Dyer, of the Born Free Foundation, added: “We can be certain the elephants used in the drama have been subject to tethering with chains, beating and other cruel training methods.
“The riding scenes help encourage tourists who visit India to seek out the experience, despite the cruelty and exploitation involved.”
The Humane Society’s Wendy Higgins said: “In places like the Amer Fort, a Beecham House location, elephants routinely carry tourists and heavy loads uphill in blistering heat without water or proper shade, often suffering painful sores of their feet from the hot paths.
“It is always disappointing to see elephant riding depicted on TV or in movies because it normalises this form of animal cruelty to the viewing public.”
Save the Asian Elephant chief executive Duncan McNair added: “Whilst Beecham House is set in a bygone era, we condemn the riding of elephants.
Yet again Jaipur, a terrible place for elephants, is the location. Elephants are wild animals and receive humans on their backs only by ruthless beatings and torture.”
Beecham House, set in 19th-century Delhi, explores the fortunes of residents of the stately home in the title. It stars Tom Bateman former soldier John Beecham, who buys the mansion to start a new life, and Dakota Blue Richards.
An ITV spokesman said: “Elephants feature in Beecham House as they were an important part of life in India in 1795.
“The production team adhered to a stringent animal welfare protocol. Vet reports were sought in advance, with on-going vet and monitoring of the animals throughout the shoot.”
The episode of Don’s Paradise Gardens with him on an elephant last year was taken off BBC’s iPlayer after an outcry. Last month, Born Free axed Martin Clunes as a patron after he rode one in My Travels and Other Animals on ITV.
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