Games, Rides, and Contests

Games, rides, and contests that use animals are anything but “fun and games” for the involuntary animal participants. Such events are often found on fair midways or promoted as school fundraisers. Exhibitors cart the animals from venue to venue and, focused on fulfilling contracts, may not take the time to rest or exercise them. As a result, sick or injured animals may go without veterinary care.

Pony Rides

Tethered tightly to turnstiles and forced to plod in endless circles, ponies can suffer from hoof ailments and may be left sore and chafed from the saddles and halters they wear all day long to give rides. Equines are specifically excluded from protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Donkey Basketball

Donkeys used in games at school fundraisers are frequently kicked and screamed at by unruly riders, who are more invested in putting on a show for spectators than in treating these gentle animals with the care that they deserve.

The donkeys are supplied by a couple of companies that rent out these personable animals like carnival equipment, loading and unloading them into and out of trucks and hauling them from one event to the next. The donkeys are subjected to screaming kids, bullhorns, and whistles as they carry the basketball players around gymnasiums. According to The Donkey Sanctuary in the U.K., an average-size donkey is not able to bear much more than 100 pounds, yet in most games, participants are full-grown adults and growing teenagers.

Animals Used as Prizes

The fate of goldfish, rabbits, chicks, hermit crabs, lizards, and other animals who are given away as prizes or as promotional gimmicks in ping-pong, ringtoss, and other games is often grim. PETA has received reports that dead and dying animals have been tossed into garbage cans near fair booths that offer such games. Game operators view the animals as expendable commodities, and deaths resulting from inadequate handling and care are written off as a small cost of doing business.

Fairgoers who “win” animals are usually provided with little or no instruction about how to care for them, so those animals who manage to survive the trip home may subsequently die. When the novelty of keeping such animals wears off or the family tires of caring for them, many are discarded.

Racing-, Diving-, and Greased-Pig Contests

Pigs, who are highly intelligent and sensitive animals, endure mishandling, noise from fairground crowds, and blaring music during racing-, diving-, and greased-pig contests. Some of them are young and still developing. Spectators at these events, especially children, may not know that pigs are often sold for slaughter at the end of each fair season.

Elephant and Camel Rides

For elephants and camels used for rides and carted from venue to venue, life bears no resemblance to a natural existence. Stuffed into cramped, hot trucks and trailers, transported across the country, and used for entertainment, these intelligent animals are forced to carry patrons on their back while plodding in circles for hours.

Mule and Horse Rentals

At ranches and stables, horses and mules who are “rented” to people for trail rides and treks may be worked until they drop. They may suffer from exposure to heat and humidity, and they are continually forced to carry heavy loads. Horses and mules can suffer from hoof ailments as a result of being forced to climb on rocky or uneven surfaces.

Mouse Roulette

In this fair midway game, mice, gerbils, or hamsters are spun on a roulette-style wheel. When the wheel stops spinning, the hole that the dizzy and disoriented animals fall into is the “winning” hole.


The best way to help animals who are exploited for entertainment is to avoid fairs, carnivals, fundraisers, and any other event where animals are used as “attractions” and to urge everyone you know to do the same. And if you do find yourself at such an event and you witness cruelty to animals, don’t hesitate to take action. Anyone can file a complaint and ask a humane officer to check on an animal.

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