The Big E Festival Should Nix Risky Petting Zoo and Elephant Rides, Says PETA

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Elephant Abuse, History of Injuries, Recent Disease Outbreaks Cited

August 28, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

West Springfield, Mass. – PETA is asking The Big E festival to cancel the petting zoo and elephant rides that are slated to be provided at the fair in September, because these events are cruel and such activities are known to pose health risks to visitors. The exhibitor scheduled to provide the rides and petting zoo, R.W. Commerford & Sons, is already responsible for four dangerous elephant ride incidents that resulted in injuries—including to a 3-year-old child. In one incident, a Commerford employee reportedly provoked an elephant who was giving rides by striking her in the face.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—points to another risk: Active tuberculosis (TB) has been identified in more than 11 percent of the elephants in the U.S., and TB is highly transmissible from elephants to humans. Petting zoos are also hotbeds of serious pathogens. Just this month, five people were hospitalized with E. coli infections from a petting zoo. In 2012, a petting zoo was linked to an E. coli outbreak that killed a toddler and affected more than 100 people. Children who come into contact with E. coli can develop bloody diarrhea, anemia, chronic kidney failure, seizures, and strokes.

“Captive animals can carry communicable diseases and can lash out in frustration—and the consequences can be disastrous when those animals are stressed, abused elephants with children on their backs,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on The Big E to protect animals and fairgoers by dropping the animal acts.”

Commerford’s history of animal welfare violations includes inadequate veterinary care, failure to maintain enclosures and transport trailers, improper feeding, and public endangerment. Owner Bob Commerford has testified before a legislative committee in opposition to a bill that would protect elephants by banning the use of electric shock prods and bullhooks—weapons that resemble fireplace pokers with a sharp hook on one end.

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