The Big E’s Coronavirus Closure Sparks New PETA Appeal

Fair Urged to Drop Archaic Animal Exhibits Upon Return

For Immediate Release:
July 1, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Springfield, Mass.

With the 2020 Big E canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, PETA sent a letter today encouraging the fair to come back strong in 2021 by eliminating cruel wild- and exotic-animal displays that keep kind fairgoers away and give it a bad reputation in the humane community.

PETA points to The Big E’s old-style habit of exploiting animals, including by forcing a suffering elephant named Minnie to carry fairgoers on her back and allowing a camel who seemed in desperate need of rest to be jerked by a handler. At last year’s fair, members of the public were horrified after a long-abused elephant named Beulah, who suffered from sepsis and shock, collapsed and died.

“Fairgoers these days know more about and respect animals and don’t want to see them used and abused,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on The Big E to reinvent itself in 2021 with festivities that leave sensitive wild animals out of the picture.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter to Eastern States Exposition President and CEO Eugene Cassidy follows.

July 1, 2020

Eugene Cassidy

President and CEO

Eastern States Exposition

Dear Mr. Cassidy,

I’m writing on behalf of PETA following your announcement that the 2020 Big E has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that this was one of the most difficult decisions that your organization has made in modern times, affecting your staff, vendors, and patrons. As your focus shifts to the future, will you please aim to come back strong in 2021 by leaving elephants, camels, and other wild and exotic animals out of the fair?

The Big E’s job is to help visitors make the best memories possible—and it’s an admirable one. However, good memories aren’t possible for those who are horrified to witness animal suffering and abuse, such as when an elephant named Minnie was forced to carry fairgoers and a handler forcefully yanked a camel who appeared to be in desperate need of rest at the 2018 fair. And one can’t forget Beulah the elephant’s tragic death at The Big E last year. She had been chained and carted around to different fairs, where she was exploited until a uterine infection poisoned her blood, causing her to suffer from sepsis and shock until she collapsed and died.

You’ve seen that times have changed. Now, nearly 700 venues and dozens of communities across the country—along with the entire states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York—prohibit or restrict animal exhibits, and that list will only grow. Just last weekend in Massachusetts, the citizens of Wilmington voted to ban traveling wild-animal acts, and Amherst is currently considering such a ban. Will you please choose to drop the old-fashioned wild- and exotic-animal exhibits now so that you can hit the ground running when the 2021 fair draws near?

Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Melanie Johnson

Assistant Manager

Animals in Entertainment Campaign

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.