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Are fairs cruel to animals?

Post by Cheryl Tucker on July 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm with 5 Comments »
July 9, 2010 6:06 pm

Pigs race at the Puyallup Fair.

Is doin’ the Puyallup cruel to animals? The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization sure thinks so.

They’re all for the non-animal parts of fairs and carnivals. But some of the activities familiar to Puyallup Fairgoers – like the pig races – rile the PETA folks. And don’t get them started on giving out goldfish as prizes. (Do they still do that at the fair?)

Here’s the word from PETA. You’ve been warned. Go watch the pig races if you must. But be sure to feel guilty about it as you head over to the Young Life booth for a BBQ pork sandwich.

By Jennifer O’Connor
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

The state and county fair season is in full swing, and the times they are a-changin’. Segway rides are replacing tired old pony rides, hands-on clean power demonstrations have taken over petting zoos and people are waiting to ride a vegetable oil-powered car instead of an elephant.

Cruel animal displays are making way for fresh and innovative exhibits that appeal to a generation that cares about animals and our planet.
Mobile solar panels, hybrid water heating systems and wind-powered generators are drawing tens of thousands of fair visitors who leave entertained, informed and empowered.

This year’s Green Long Beach (Calif.) Festival showcased an art project with 23,000 water bottles representing the wild dolphins who are killed for food in Japan each year. The Spring Green Expo in downtown Los Angeles featured student-designed sustainability projects and panels on organic gardening. Similar “green” fairs are sprouting up all over the country.

Yet some fair organizers — refusing to accept that times and sensibilities have evolved — continue to fall back on stale old midway displays such as tiger cub photo booths, pig races and goldfish ping-pong games. And for these ill, exhausted and dispirited animals, the shift to the 21st century can’t come quickly enough.

Animals used on the fair circuit are hauled from one location to the next in transport cages in which they can barely move. Hot, fetid and cramped, these trucks can become their coffins. It’s cost-prohibitive to hire an on-site veterinarian, so sick or injured animals may go unnoticed and untreated.

It’s impossible to know how many animals suffer and die because these caravans are constantly on the move, and for the most part, they are self-regulated. Local humane authorities usually don’t have the staff or resources to monitor traveling shows, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees animal exhibitors, has fewer than 100 inspectors covering the entire country.

Elephants live shackled in chains except when being prodded with bullhooks (a rod with a sharp metal hook on the end) to give rides. Tiger cubs who should still be nursing and be nurtured by their mothers are held and handled by streams of people looking to take home a photo souvenir. Sea lions and sharks who should be swimming in the vast oceans are lugged around in cramped tanks as shameless hucksters shill them as “educational.”

But it’s not just exotic species who suffer. Goldfish given away as prizes are more likely to end up flushed as to make it home. Ponies on turnstiles are so spent that they move on autopilot. Smart, sociable pigs go hungry so that they’ll “race” for cookies.

Parents and grandparents can make a real difference by explaining to children why they won’t be petting or feeding the animals, having their photo taken or taking a ride. As long as kids are led to believe that these kinds of cruel and exploitative displays are “OK,” animals will continue to suffer.

This summer, seek out something new, something fresh, something relevant. For the sake of the animals and our planet, don’t be mean — go green.

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.

(c) 2010, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Taking notice
Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. Does the Puyallup actually have any “traveling show” animals other than the Les Schwab racing pigs? I don’t remember seeing any. The animal barns are filled with prized 4H projects, their owners seem to take a lot of pride in their care.

    I don’t let my kids go to traveling circuses if they use animal acts, but going after the county fair seems like a bit much. Originally, the whole point to the fair was to showcase agriculture, and the animals are a part of that.

    We have enough places to showcase high tech gadgets, fairs are all about getting back to the land. (You know, with funnel cakes and games you can’t win.)

  2. zombiehooliganfc says:

    I love going to the fair and then going somewhere to eat their brothers-in-arms. I am not being a jerk here, I am dead serious. When I cows, pigs, and poultry, I think to myself, “Mmmm, those look delicious!”. Then I head out and find some to eat. You know why? Because, after all is said and done, WE’RE SUPPOSED TO EAT ANIMALS, THAT’S HOW IT WORKS! PETA is as bad as Bible-thumpers that try to push morality on us and have us go against who we really are. We are animals, too, not gods that are above it all, we eat meat, we have the equipment to eat meat, we didn’t make it that way, we were born that way. For centuries we have been forcing ourselves to eat veggies, know why? because we’re supposed to eat meat. Same with religion and sex. Know why we want to have sex with everything? Because we’re supposed to. Jeez, it’s all very simple. We’re no more than the pigs on Animal Farm walking around on our hind legs pretending to be something we aren’t.

  3. CeeCeeDD says:

    Our fair has many FFA and 4H kids who are learning how to become farmers. Their training is important and they take excellent care of their animals. These students deserve our support. Farming is becoming a lost art. (And farmland in our county is also becoming scarce).

    I think PETA has gone a bit far with this target.

  4. Novelist3 says:

    I must say, I’m all for the sane, caring treatment of animals, but…

    Anything that PETA says, in any way, shape or form, should be immediately dismissed.

    Why does anyone trust PETA? Why do people continually put them up as a paragon of integrity?

    “From July 1998 through December 2009, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) killed over 23,000 dogs, cats, and other “companion animals.” That’s more than five defenseless creatures every day. PETA has a walk-in freezer to store the dead bodies, and contracts with a Virginia Beach company to cremate them. ”
    “PETA rakes in nearly $30 million each year in income, much of it raised from pet owners who think their donations actually help animals. Instead, the group spends huge sums on programs equating people who eat chicken with Nazis, scaring young children away from drinking milk, recruiting children into the radical animal-rights lifestyle, and intimidating businessmen and their families in their own neighborhoods. PETA has also spent tens of thousands of dollars defending arsonists and other violent extremists. ”
    Says Dana Cheek, the former (and most recent) director of the Norfolk SPCA:
    I often receive phone calls from frantic people who have surrendered their pets to PETA with the understanding that PETA will “find them a good home.” Many of them are led to believe that the animals will be taken to a nearby shelter. Little do they know that the pets are killed in the PETA van before they even pull away from the pet owner’s home … PETA refuses to surrender animals they obtain to area shelters for rehoming. If only the celebrity “deep-pocket” donors on the west coast knew that their donations were going to kill adoptable cats and dogs here in Norfolk.

    In other words- when PETA speaks, close your ears.


  5. Cheryl Tucker says:


    The only other traveling animal show I’m aware of at the fair was one I saw last year: a Wild West-theme show with little dogs. It was cute as all get-out. The dogs looked healthy and eager to perform, and I recommended the show to friends with a young child.

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