New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) John Abraham, Celina Jaitley, Shilpa Shetty and Malaika Arora Khan have something in common apart from their celebrity status. They have come forward to endorse a message for animal welfare in the country.
Whether it is turning vegetarian, binding themselves in chains, getting inside cages or going out of their way to provide shelter to animals - the actors have done their bit to promote awareness about cruelty against animals.
"When it comes to raising awareness for animals, the celebrities are available at a click for the cause. They do it for free and give us time from their tight schedule knowing what they are standing for," Anuradha Sawhney, chief functionary of PETA India, told IANS over phone from Pune.
Sawhney said PETA India did not, in fact, try to rope in celebrities just for the sake of it, but noted that when a known face says something to people, the impact is greater.
Launched in 2000, PETA India is the Indian chapter of the US-based animal rights organisation People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The celebrity involvement in campaigns for animals started in 2001 when actresses Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit wrote letters to people in South Africa and Assam appealing for the endangered black rhino and elephants respectively.
Since then, celebrities like Rahul Dev, Ameesha Patel, Eesha Koppikhar, Yana Gupta, Raveena Tandon, Gulshan Grover, Shamita Singha, Jiah Khan, Rahul Khanna and controversy queens Rakhi Sawant and Sherlyn Chopra have shed their inhibitions to wear outrageous outfits, sometimes, just leaves or red chillies to spread the message that animals must not be killed for commerce.
Celina Jaitley, who appeared in a torn and tattered grey vest and was tied with chains for a PETA ad to save elephants from captivity, said: "I have been an animal lover all my life...they are the most loyal and unconditional givers of love...they complete us and bring joy to us with their crazy antics. But we humans don't understand their value and treat them with cruelty for our own purpose, which is wrong."
Shilpa Shetty, who reflected her concern for the misery of circus animals through a print commercial, told IANS via text from South Africa: "Just the thought of getting into the cage for the PETA ad made me so uncomfortable...just imagine what animals who spend their entire life in cages go through."
Another actor who has worked relentlessly for the cause is John Abraham. He provided a helping hand in creating India's first elephant village in Maharashtra, for which he was even awarded an EcoWarrior award in 2008.
"Real men are kind to animals. If we don't treat our animals and the habitat with kindness today, it'll be not long that we lose both," John said.
The celebrity involvement did not go in vain.
"We had a tremendous response when John got into a cage to show the dilemma of caged birds. We even had a fabulous response for Shilpa and Rakhi's ads where they got themselves caged to show the plight of circus animals," said Sawhney.
"Children from schools wrote to us pledging not to visit any circuses that had any animals. The response has been fabulous and it increases each time a celebrity does a campaign. Even when the Big B was voted the hottest vegetarian three times in a row (2002-2004), the response was huge and his fans even asked us to help them turn veggies," she added.
While actors like Raveena Tandon and Lara Dutta are "very anti-fur and anti-leather", said Sawhney, other indirect efforts by celebrities to stop atrocities against animals have been by promoting vegetarianism.
These efforts have involved Aditi Govitrikar, Mahima Choudhary, Rajniesh Duggall and Devang Patel among others.
Actor R. Madhavan and Kareena Kapoor were also voted the "cutest vegetarians" of 2007 with Kareena even bagging the crown for 2008's "sexiest vegetarian".