Viral Footage of Suffering Elephant, Camel Prompts Demand to Big E

Public Outrage Over Elephant, Camel Abuse Means Fair Must End Exotic-Animal Exhibits, Says PETA

For Immediate Release:
September 26, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Springfield, Mass.

After a photo of a suffering elephant forced to give rides to fairgoers at the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E) went viral—followed by a horrifying video showing a handler violently jerking a seemingly exhausted camel—PETA fired off an urgent letter today once again calling on the fair to pull the plug on its cruel, dangerous, and archaic wild- and exotic-animal exhibits. In the letter, PETA points out that the animals used at The Big E were provided by the notorious R.W. Commerford & Sons Traveling Petting Zoo, which has a long rap sheet of animal-welfare violations.

“Today’s compassionate public is rightly up in arms at the sight of a tired, suffering elephant reportedly limping on concrete for human joyrides and a camel being yanked by the head for trying to rest,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on The Big E to get with the times and join the many fairs and festivals nationwide that have said a big goodbye to all wild-animal exhibits.”

PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.” For more information, please visit

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

September 26, 2018

Eugene Cassidy

President and CEO

Eastern States Exposition

Dear Mr. Cassidy,

I’m writing again on behalf of PETA following public outrage over a photo that went viral of a suffering elephant named Minnie who was forced to carry fairgoers at The Big E, followed by a video of a handler forcefully jerking a camel who appeared to be in desperate need of rest. In light of the outcry over this disturbing photo and video footage and the cruelty associated with using wild and exotic animals for entertainment, we’re urging you to end elephant and camel rides immediately and leave these and all other wild and exotic animals out of future fairs.

The elephants, as well as the camel seen in this video, are supplied by the notoriously cruel R.W. Commerford & Sons Traveling Petting Zoo, which has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Last May, it failed to provide an elephant named Beulah—who’s currently at The Big E—with adequate veterinary care for overgrown cuticles, a condition that can predispose these animals to painful foot disease, which is a leading cause of death in captive elephants. And Minnie—the elephant in the photo—has a history of gait problems that are indicative of pain.

Elephants live under the constant threat of being hit with bullhooks—sharp steel-tipped rods that resemble a fireplace poker. Wild animals used in traveling shows are typically separated from their mothers as babies, spend most of their lives in cages or shackles, and are forced to eat, sleep, and defecate in the same cramped space. They’re routinely denied the opportunity to exercise and socialize and may be denied access to even basic necessities, such as nutritious food, clean water, adequate shelter, and veterinary care.

As the public becomes increasingly aware of the abuse inherent in forcing wild animals to perform or give rides, venues and communities nationwide are prohibiting the cruel acts. Both New York State and Illinois banned using elephants in traveling acts, and Massachusetts is poised to be next. Please listen to the concerns of members of the public—including patrons of your fair—by ending elephant and camel rides now and hosting only entertainment that’s free of wild and exotic animals moving forward.

Very truly yours,

Melanie Johnson

Campaign Coordinator, Animals in Entertainment

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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