Cruelty is not entertaining

To the Editor:

When the summer draws to a close in Vermont, many people are excited about the county fairs happening across our great state. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. Oh sure, I like the games and the fried dough, but that enjoyment is vastly outweighed by the disgust I feel at the cruelty to animals that occurs in shows disguised as "entertainment."

Last year, I was saddened to see big cats and kangaroos at the Champlain Valley Fair, and I sincerely hope that those events have been discontinued. (They are not on their website, but that is no guarantee.)

This year, the Orleans County Fair is taking the cruelty cake with at least two shows that exploit animals -- the Rosaire big cat show and the banana derby, in which capuchin monkeys are dressed in costumes, strapped to dogs, and forced to race around a track. Capuchin monkeys are intelligent, highly social animals who naturally live in large groups and spend most of their time in trees. They are extremely high strung and are easily stressed. Please consider how miserable it is for these animals to be carted from one location to the next, only to be used in chaotic, frightening and totally unnatural settings, with no means of escape.

In addition, while the Rosaire big cat show claims to be a sanctuary for abused and unwanted animals, no legitimate sanctuary would subject its animals to the trauma of traveling and performing in foreign settings or make their animals "work for their keep." Forcing an animal to perform is undeniably stressful, unfair to the animal and directly contradicts the goals of any true sanctuary.

Captive big cats -- including small cubs -- present a grave danger to unsuspecting members of the public. An Oxford University study published in the journal Nature found that wide-ranging carnivores such as tigers and other big cats "show the most evidence of stress and/or psychological dysfunction in captivity." Captive big cats are deeply affected by the lack of freedom, exercise and stimulation: it's no wonder so many of them "snap." Since 1990, there have been over 175 dangerous incidents involving big cats in at least 36 states. These incidents have resulted in the deaths of at least 14 people, including children, as well as the deaths of many, many big cats.

With all that we know about animals and their needs, as well as the inherent danger of using animals in entertainment, I am shocked that these acts still occur. I call on the citizens of Vermont to no longer support fairs that use animals like this, and for fair directors to not support or hire these shows. It's the right thing to do -- for so many reasons.

Julie Dimmock

Burlington, Vt.

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