A reported crowd of about 100 people gathered Monday in opposition of elephant rides at the Nevada County Fair.
The meeting was in response to a June 20 decision by the Nevada County Fair Board to keep its contract with elephant entertainment company Have Trunk Will Travel, despite a contingent of community members who spoke against the contract during that meeting.
“We want to fight animal abuse and neglect,” said Kathy Monteiro, director of the Coalition of Animal Welfare and Support. “When it is invited into the community, it is very troubling.”
Twenty countries worldwide have banned the use of wild animals, said JP Novic, executive director of Center for Animal Protection and Education, a group that recently relocated from Santa Cruz to Nevada County.
The meeting included speakers Monteiro and Novic, CAPE Program Manager Shelley Frost, and Matt Rossell, campaign director of Animal Defenders International.
Rossell played part of a video titled “No Fun for Elephants,” narrated by Bob Barker, that allegedly shows footage of workers from elephant entertainment companies Have Trunk Will Travel and Trunks & Humps, where workers are shown on multiple occasions striking and shocking elephants using bull hooks and prods.
Elephants were also shown crammed and transported in small spaces and chained up.
“We’re not picking on one company, but this is the type of training we see wherever we go. When you see these wild animals being trained for circus tricks, you see this kind of cruelty and abuse,” Rossell said. “It simply needs to end.
“I counted 168 hooks, jabs, hits and shocks and also using a handheld shocking device to shock these elephants multiple times to get them to do tricks,” Rossell continued. “There is no context where that would be OK.”
The fair board released a column in The Union, printed June 24, that stated that it did not believe there was sufficient factual information to void the contract and that funds from Have Trunk Will Travel will go toward elephant conservation through the International Elephant Foundation. The board also said the Association of Zoos and USDA completed investigations based on the video and found no evidence of cruelty. The columns also noted that only 189 out of the 2,300 signatures from a protest petition were from Nevada County community members.
Rossell said the International Elephant Foundation has been highly criticized and was partly founded by Gary Johnson and Have Trunk Will Travel.
“HTWT is trying to use conservation to hide behind abuse. Conservation work is great and of course we fully support work on supporting elephants in the wild,” Rossell said. “The reality is, HTWT abuses their elephants to bring them to crowded fairs and that’s unacceptable.”
Novic said no money is being exchanged with Have Trunk Will Travel, and every dollar made from the elephant rides goes to the company and not to the fair.
She also said there is a growing worldwide movement to prevent the use of wild animals for entertainment and that Nevada County needs to get on board.
“This is happening. People are becoming educated and awareness is being built,” Novic said. “The fair board needs to wake up and hear what the community is saying.”
The speakers encouraged people to sign up and contact the fair board.
To sign the petition, visit http://www.care2.com/go/z/NevadaFair.
The group handed out flyers to be placed around town and in businesses and asked supporters to call fair vendors and sponsors to spread awareness. The group is also seeking funds for a full-page advertisement and encourages letters to be written to http:// capeanimals.org/elephants.html.
The next Nevada County Fairgrounds Board of Directors meeting will be 4 p.m. July 16.
“The fair board said there weren’t enough local people who signed the petition,” Frost said. “We need the community to be heard.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.