Protests of elephant rides at Nevada County Fair planned |

Protests of elephant rides at Nevada County Fair planned

A rally protesting the elephant rides at the Nevada County Fair has been planned for opening night Wednesday — and animal activists are planning to maintain a presence at the fair all week.

But local organizers are stressing that their aim is educational rather than disruptive.

“Our goal is to educate people on why we’ve been opposed to having the elephants come,” said Kathy Monteiro of the Coalition for Animal Wefare & Support. “Not being confrontational, not being disruptive, but to educate the public. We feel if people understand our position (that) we don’t want animal abuse invited into our community, we fee like everyone will be on the same page.”

The fair’s contract with Have Trunk Will Travel, which is providing two elephants for children to ride during the fair, has generated an enormous amount of controversy and has divided the community. The fair’s board of directors agreed to hear public comment at its June 20 meeting but angered a number of people who attended because they did not bring the issue to a vote. At its July meeting, more than 60 people spoke, but the board of directors voted to continue the contract with Have Trunk Will Travel.

“Our goal is to educate people on why we’ve been opposed to having the elephants come.”
Kathy Monteiro
Coalition for Animal Welfare & Support

In response, a coalition of local and national animal rights organizations has banded together to try to educate the public about its concerns.

The groups have planned an opening-night educational demonstration against the elephant rides at the Nevada County Fair. According to a press release from Galt-based Performing Animal Welfare Society, more than 100 demonstrators waving informative signs and distributing flyers will kick off five days of outreach.

The rally is set to start at 6 p.m. at Gate 1 of the fairgrounds on McCourtney Road.

“Elephants are large, powerful animals whose wild natures have been suppressed through violent training so they can be used for rides,” said PAWS President Ed Stewart. “Having elephant rides at any event is an accident waiting to happen.”

According to Stewart, who will attend the opening night demonstration, training for rides involves brutally breaking and training elephants and controlling them through dominance and fear of pain for the rest of their lives.

Educational demonstrations will take place throughout the five days of the fair, informing the public about why captive, wild elephants should not be used as carnival rides. Organizations involved in the opening-night event and subsequent demonstrations include Center for Animal Protection & Education, the Coalition for Animal Welfare & Support, PAWS, Animal Place, Scooter’s Pals, AnimalSave, Rescue For Pet Sake and Chows Plus.

Matt Rossell of Animal Defenders International will be showing a video of Have Trunk Will Travel purportedly striking elephants with bullhooks and using electric shock during training. Have Trunk Will Travel representatives claim the video is edited and manipulated in order to raise money for ADI.

‘Outside’ agitators raise safety concerns

Some concerns have been raised that out-of-county protesters could show up at the fair and cause trouble, leading some animal exhibitors to institute safety precautions.

“There has been a rumor about that,” Monteiro said, adding that the local organizations are committed to remaining civil.

“We’re not trying to alter anyone’s lifestyle or stop kids from participating in 4-H,” she said.

The Center for Animal Protection & Education released a statement on its website, http://, that it had recently been informed that people from outside of Nevada County might be planning civil disobedience at the fair.

“CAPE will not be participating in civil disobedience,” the statement reads. “We ask those who are planning to participate in civil disobedience to please respect the hard work this community has done over the past three months educating people about the elephants coming to the fair. Civil disobedience is used to call attention to an issue that is being ignored. Here in Nevada County, this issue has gotten a tremendous amount of media attention and inspired hundreds of people to join us in working to protect elephants. Should civil disobedience take place during our outreach campaign at the fair, the negative publicity generated could destroy the inroads we have made regarding elephants used in entertainment.

“We ask, in the spirit of respect for the hard work of local citizens and for the elephants, that everyone behave in a kind and polite manner.”

Donna Fadel, who raises Boer goats and whose family members are long-time exhibitors at the fair, said many FFA and 4-H families are worried their children will be stuck in the middle of the controversy.

“They’re very worried,” she said. “They’re concerned … this could become more than a verbal protest.”

Many pens will be padlocked, Fadel said, adding that there also will be people sleeping in the barns.

“Children won’t be allowed to come and go as usual because they are concerned,” she said. “They are taking precautions.”

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4229.

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