Fair no place for exotic animal attractions

Published 8:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

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Dear Editor,

My Cass and Berrien County friends have always talked about how wonderful the Berrien County Youth Fair is. Consequently, I was absolutely shocked when I saw a newspaper photo of children riding on an elephant at the fair. Elephants are not domesticated animals, and I am surprised that the fair board is not aware that circuses and even zoos are now retiring their elephants to sanctuaries where the animals can be rehabilitated in a space that allows them to re-establish their natural roaming and foraging habits.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circuses retired their elephant acts in 2016, and the animals have now been moved to an elephant sanctuary in Florida. Keeping elephants in captivity causes many physical and mental health problems for these beautiful creatures that are endangered around the world.

“Elephants in the wild have one of the largest home ranges, often walking up to 40 miles each day. In captivity, whether it’s a circus, zoo, or other commercial venue, captivity cannot nearly replicate their natural environment (World Animal Protection.com).” 

An elephant (even an Asian elephant) that is docile enough to allow children’s rides has been trained with cruel—and now unaccepted—animal training practices. Elephants are herd animals and acts that move them in isolation around the country cause serious physical and mental health problems. Events such as this have no place at a county fair (or anywhere!), especially one that has a reputation for teaching children about respect for all animals and how to provide for them.

Many educational programs exist that inform people about elephants and other wild animals and what we can be doing to save them. Wouldn’t programs such as these be more appropriate than an act that perpetuates the notion that wild animals are for our entertainment?

As someone who grew up in southern Africa where I have seen these magnificent elephants in the wild, this perpetuation of misinformation about wild animals in captivity is especially heartrending. I urge the fair board to refrain from such events in the future.

Naomi Ludman,