Sep 29, 2013
05:28 AMConnecticut Today
Durham Fair's 'Elephant Encounter' Draws Protesters Saturday
Michael T. Lyle/The Middletown Press
Animal advocates protest the Elephant Encounter act at the Durham Fair Saturday.
DURHAM--Guests coming through the gates on the third day of the Durham Fair Saturday were greeted by local animal advocates protesting a new attraction at town’s showcase. (The fair continues Sunday.)
Stationed near the Durham Library, local resident Rachel Mann led a group of activists trying to persuade fairgoers to enjoy the day’s festivities while bypassing the “Elephant Encounter” act.
Mann launched an online petition on the change.org website last month in hopes of encouraging Durham Fair Association officials to cancel the event. The petition generated more than 3,000 signatures and claims the fair association is supporting the captivity, mistreatment and exploitation of elephants for entertainment by hosting the event.
Fair association officials, however, later voted to keep the attraction at the fair, which resulted in the daylong protest along the library’s entrance on Maple Avenue.
“We want to send a message that the fair didn’t listen to the thousands of signatures of concerned citizens,” said Mann, who held a sign reading “Enjoy the fair, Boycott Elephant Show.”
Local resident Jenn Kinzel, another protester, took issue with an excerpt from the fair association’s mission of preserving and promoting the state’s agricultural and rural heritage by sponsoring education events, programs and exhibits.
“I found that part of the statement to be interesting,” said Kinzel. “There’s no reason to have a circus show with wild animals at an agricultural fair.”
However, Elephant Encounter owner William Morris, who was cited for having mistreated the animals in 2003, told scores of guests attending the 11 a.m. performance Saturday to “keep an open mind” despite what’s being stated in the media.
“This is not a corporation or a circus,” Morris told the crowd. “We are a family here.”
Fair association President Dan Miramant didn’t have any issues with the protests, saying it wasn’t disrupting the fair.