Photo: Orange County Fair popular elephant ride on opening day, July 16, 2010.
Upland City Council and the Fairplex have cancelled elephant rides at the Upland Lemon Festival (fairplex.com). Joining the ranks of Orange County Fair, Los Angeles County Fair, Santa Ana Zoo, and the cities of Fountain Valley and Sierra Madre, their decision was based on presentations by Animal Defenders International (ADI), an animal rights group that went undercover filming the entertainment provider, Have Trunk Will Travel. Elephant entertainment owners and trainers were shown beating, shocking and hooking” their elephants with bullhooks during training sessions, according to ADI, which urged festival organizers to permanently remove elephants from the Upland annual fruit festival.
The general consensus among animal rights groups such as ADI and The Humane Society of the United States is that elephants should not be used for rides. Their logic is that elephants are wild animals posing public health and safety risks to riders with potential to bolt or run, trample humans and carry diseases such as tuberculosis. Another reason for wanting fairs, carnivals and circuses to eliminate elephants and other wild animals involves the animals being removed from their natural environments, deprived of socialization, and being subjected to pain. Though these animals can die in the wilds due to starvation, drought, lack of medical care and predators (lions, hyenas, and humans,) captivity is not nature's way, so the theory goes.
Not everyone in the entertainment and tourism industries agree that elephant rides should be permanently banned. USA Today is among countless publications with travel coverage touting elephant rides as exciting adventures around the world. Tour packages to some countries promise exciting elephant rides and other animal adventures. Even in California, fair-goers don't always agree with the animal rights groups and their activism. I think it's ridiculous to get rid of the elephant rides,” said Matthew, who asked us not to include last name. What's next…pig races, livestock shows and removal of animals from the food chain? Why even have a fair?”