Kolkata Club Faces Backlash For Use Of ‘Drugged, Chained’ Monkeys At Circus-Themed Event

The club, Toy Room, situated in Kolkata’s Camac Street area reportedly organised the circus theme party on Friday (June 16) and had kept a monkey chained as part of the theme.

By Zaina Azhar Sayeda, 23 Jun 2023

A renowned night club in Kolkata has drawn flak from the community after visuals showing chained and allegedly drugged monkeys being forced to perform at the venue went viral on social media.

Toy Room Kolkata came under fire for its ‘callous’ use of monkeys at its circus-themed event on Friday night. The incident involving three monkeys has been heavily criticised and condemned by several concerned locals and animal rights organisations as investigations continue.

Kolkata-based entrepreneur Tina Mukherjee was one of the first people to call out the ‘atrocious’ and ‘insensitive act of cruelty’ when she saw social media posts about the event the following morning. Tina said she was shocked to see no one save for the DJ performing there had stepped up and objected to the act.

“DJ Teri Miko has done a whole video testimonial saying when she arrived at the club she kept asking the organisers why there were monkeys at the club and the organisers just kept saying they were going to be taken away soon.”

The videos being circulated, Tina said, show a drunk girl petting the monkey and forcing it to open its eyes. She believes there is no way the monkeys would have been sitting like that without reacting if they weren’t drugged.

“It was a really sorry state of affairs and you can’t get away with everything just because you’re privileged. I put it up there because I feel nowadays everything is being taken so lightly, post COVID nothing really bothers people. My whole point is that at least next time people will think five times before doing something so atrocious. I mean what’s next, are you going to have naked women chained there?”

Tina Mukherjee’s post on Instagram was heavily circulated within hours of uploading, reaching actors, activists and animal rights organisations.

“The post has been shared multiple times and people have tagged other people too,” she said. “In the club, I don’t think anyone except the DJ spoke up, the people there were the so-called woke generation but when it came to the monkeys they were just there partying, no one thought this should be stopped.”

Toy Room Kolkata released a statement on Saturday (June 17) following the community outrage, denying any involvement in hiring of the monkeys.

“This is a message for everyone who is angry/ hurt/ upset over the video of the monkeys. We would like to inform you that Toyroom had no role to play in hiring the monkeys and the madaris,” the statement read.

“The madaris or caregivers of the monkeys approached us at the club and we very politely refused them to do any kind of activities inside. Agreeing to which, they moved to the ground level of the mall’s entrance and sat there to make a livelihood out of it. The monkeys were not hurt, injured or harmed and they were always with the caretakers on the ground level of the mall. We care as much as everyone else for the animals and would never do such activities where they’d be harmed or caged.”

“We sincerely apologise if we’ve hurt anyone’s sentiments or feelings unintentionally,” they added.

People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) official Meet Ashar said while the club has tried to justify saying they did not intend for the monkeys to be involved in the circus-themed party, the videos from the night indicate otherwise.

“Whatever we have learnt from people who were present there, including videos and posts and stories on social media is that there was a circus themed party on Friday night and there were two madaris, one with two monkeys and one with one monkey,” the Cruelty Case Division expert said.

“It cannot be a coincidence that the madaris landed upon the same night they had a circus theme event,” he said.

“When we consulted our expert wildlife veterinarian and PETA India policy advisor Dr Nithin Krishnegowda, he said that the videographic evidence suggested the monkeys seemed to be drugged.”

Meet says, Dr Krishnegowda further elaborated saying the monkeys seem dull and unresponsive, one monkey seems extremely scared, trying to hide in the lap of the madari while he is making the other monkey perform.

“It clearly indicates the animals were in distress. The club is a noisy place, with lots of lights, lots of people.”

Meet Ashar believes the monkeys, though not legally categorised as ‘wild animals’, belong in the safety of the jungle and not within the four walls of a nightclub.

“The fact that you have brought a wild animal into a setup like this and you can see the fear, the monkeys have been chained and the madari is yanking the chains, he is inflicting pain, making the monkeys perform.”

“In the videos, you can hear the people in the club trying to interact saying ‘oh baby and things like that’ and while they may be well-meaning people, it did go down well with the monkeys.”

The PETA official said the organisation’s intention is not to judge the people who attended the event, the animals’ welfare is their prime concern.

“The monkeys are absolutely in despair, with the madaris making them perform illegally and while investigations into who did what can wait, rescuing the monkeys cannot.”

“We literally pleaded with the club management and we said if you want a chance at redemption do the right thing at least give us the contact details of the madaris but they’ve just kept denying and said they’ll have to talk to management and call back,” Meet Ashar said.

According to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, another serious legality has been violated, Meet Ashar alleges.

“Section 22 clause 2 of the act has been violated because under that section in 1998, the central government had prohibited the use of monkeys and four other animals for performance, exhibition or training,” he said.

“It’s been over 25 years and we still see such a well-known club behaving in such a manner,” he added.

PETA also released an official statement condemning the incident and calling on police to ensure the management is held accountable for the crime.

“Any nightclub that uses live animals of any species is desperately out of touch of what young people think is cool. Today’s young people support animal rights and know wild animals should be in the jungle with their families,” the statement read.

An FIR has been lodged as investigations into the matter are continuing.

Meet Ashar says unfortunately this is not the first time the organisation has come across animals illegally being used for entertainment.

“We have rescued numerous monkeys from madaris, recently from streets from Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai and thankfully there aren’t as many as there used to be,” he said.

“We’ve rescued animals from circuses also. We recently rescued three African Grey parrots from a circus in Birbhum district of West Bengal. The parrots were being used without having a valid performing animals registration certificate which is mandatory from the Animal Welfare Board of India.”