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O.C. Fair Halts Elephant Rides. What Do You Think?

25-year tradition ends amid animal-rights protests. Take our pachyderm poll on the decision.

A 25-year tradition of elephant rides at the Orange County Fair ended Thursday when fair officials canceled their contract with the company that provided the pachyderms.

On a 7-1 vote, with board member David Ellis dissenting, the Orange Fair and Event Center board ended its contract with Have Trunk Will Travel.

Board member Nick Berardino proposed the change because the Association of Zoos and Aquariums issued new industry standards for elephant care providers last year.

The new standards say elephant care providers "shall not share the same unrestricted space with elephants, except in certain, well-defined circumstances,'' according to a staff report.

That raised issues of liability for elephant rides at the fair, although no previous problems have occurred.

People for the Ethnical Treatment of Animals, which claimed the company used electric prods and hooks on its elephants, applauded the board's decision.

Kari Johnson of Have Trunk Will Travel naturally had a different take. "Of course we were disappointed, and I think a lot of people who go to the fair this year will be disappointed too,'' Johnson said.

Last summer, when animal rights activists protested the elephant rides, fair CEO Steve Beazley defended Have Trunk Will Travel, saying the company had never had any record of incidents.

Berardino said he was inspired to propose ending the contract after he saw a television show about elephants several months ago.

"I remembered last year at the fair we had elephant rides and I remember the protesters there,'' Berardino said. "It makes no sense to put a 5-year-old on an elephant given the new information.''

Berardino acknowledged the fair has not had any problems with the company's elephants over the years. "And now we're assured there will never be a problem,'' he said.

-- City News Service

Cindi Cavallini April 16, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Just because I see you at work for 8 hours a day does not mean I think that's what you do for 24! Just because you only see the elephants doing something for a few hours a day doesn't mean that is all they do either. Look at this UNEDITED video. This video is one of many of the HTWT elephants at play. But guess what, there are no fences surrounding her, no trainers telling her to come back. She plays and willingly comes back to see what her parents think of her antics. Like any proud parent the Johnson's film Tai and let her do what she wants as she enjoys her many hours of play. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7MuQY19GBI&feature=share
Cindi Cavallini April 16, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Oh, here's another video of Tai on the beach, yes in the big wide ocean! Watch her body language as she enjoys her day at play and returns to make sure her PARENTS are watching and admiring her playfulness. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HHxZsspwKE&feature=share
Cj Ellie April 16, 2012 at 12:31 PM
There are few things that a elephant loves more then playing in the water, I certainly enjoyed watching Tai play and squeak with happiness. But that doesn't negate the beatings she receives from the Johnson's when she is being made to perform circus tricks. Elephants like children often love their abusive parent. They depend on that parent to provide them food and shelter. They have no choice. But NO ONE has the right to beat either animals or children.
SFry April 16, 2012 at 02:15 PM
http://www.consumerfreedom.com/ I pity the poor animals who fall into the activists arms. If they only had a voice or could read the truth about thier fate. Why do people work feverishly gathering funds to send animals to thier death? It's a sad sad story about lots and lots of money. Who is the one hurting animals for profit? It's sick, disturbing, and so many fall for it. Where are all of the animals that have been rescued by your loving arms? I guess you could call death a "Forever Home", it is permanent. There is no excuse for animal abuse but apparently you have one for murder.
Cj Ellie April 16, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Everyone knows that Ringling Bros Circus is one of the co-founders of the website you reference, and we've already seen Ringling beating their baby and adult elephants behind closed doors, so they have no creditability.

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