To the Editor:
Those who oppose the addition of an elephant entertainment act to this year’s Durham Fair have been accused of being “against the fair.” In fact, this could not be farther from the truth.
The Durham Fair has a strong tradition rooted deep in the history of the town, and its continued success and growth is a reflection of the hometown pride and unceasing support of the community.
Indeed, The Durham Agricultural Fair Association says that, throughout its history, “…the Durham Fair has successfully managed to remain 100 percent volunteer run and a true agricultural fair.”
However, the decision to bring Elephant Encounter, the controversial entertainment act featuring elephants performing circus stunts, to Durham directly conflicts with the values of this “true agricultural fair” and its community, and threatens to undermine its integrity.
Elephant Encounter is not agricultural in any way, but rather, a travelling side show of wild animals out of their natural habitat in the United States, much less on Durham farmland. The managers of this show and owners of the elephants have been recorded abusing the animals and cited for other acts of neglect, including failing to provide adequate living space, food and water, and medical care, values that the Durham Fair community surely does not support.
Those who exhibit agricultural animals at the fair, having raised them from birth and provided their care and upkeep, take pride in the exceptional health and well-being of the animals, respect them, and often think of them as family. An act featuring wild elephants who have been poorly cared for, mistreated, and forced to travel and perform throughout the country does not fit alongside the beautiful chickens, cows, and sheep born and raised in our community. Elephant
Encounters claims to be an educational experience — yet, the best lesson we can teach our children, who look forward to the Durham Fair with anticipation each year, is one of compassion; that wild animals do not exist for our entertainment, and that no animal should ever be abused.
The inclusion of this controversial show distracts from the agricultural tradition of the Durham Fair, and places a proverbial black eye on the wholesome reputation the fair has long preserved.
In addition to the glaring contradiction of values between this act and our fair, many fair associations throughout the country, as well as the entire State of Vermont, have banned elephant shows due to public safety and health concerns.
This week, the Durham Fair Agricultural Association will be presented with the signatures of 2,939 concerned citizens opposed to the inclusion of Elephant Encounter in this year’s fair, and will hear some of the concerns of its community members.
We expect that the Association will do the right thing — for the community, animals, and the integrity of the fair — and make the decision to NOT bring an elephant act to the Durham Fair.
Rachel Gary, Middletown