Animal Cruelty at the Fair: What Would You Do?

It’s fair season in many parts of the United States and that marks a time when thousands will descend upon their local fairgrounds to play games, enter competitions and to showcase the finest selection of their pumpkin harvest. But there’s a darker side to what goes on underneath the tents and in the grassy fields here as animals become a spectacle at a hefty price.

“The Altamont Fair is advertising that they will display a live birth everyday they are open,” Nicole Arciello Berhaupt explained in a column in the Times Union. “How is taking a cow that is about to go into labor out of her ‘home’, forcing her into a truck and bringing her into the middle of a fair with lights, loud noises, rides and many, many people educational, or humane? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to have a baby in those conditions. How can people not see this as traumatic?”

And Nicole is not alone. She is one of the few voices beginning to speak up about the wellbeing of animals at fair grounds.

Toronto-based photographer Jo-Anne McArthur writes the blog We Animals and has been documenting the Royal Fair there for the past 12 years.  She expresses tremendous concern over the misrepresentation of farming and of the behind-the-scenes violence in the rodeo.

“From the stands, you will see men and boys being bucked around by bulls and horses,” Jo-Anne writes. ” If you look closer, behind the scenes and behind the chutes, you would see electric prods being used to move animals and large sticks coming down on their backs to make them move from one spot to the next. You would see wounds on their flanks, legs and faces. You would see animals in a state of terror while being saddled up and confined in a chute, before having a strap pulled tight against their sensitive flanks which makes them buck madly to get rid of the thing. You would see animals shipped to the slaughterhouse if they have sustained serious injuries and can no longer perform.”

Rabbits are frequent targets of 'petting zoo' areas and are relentlessly handled, under no supervision, causing tremendous stress for many.

Just two days ago, animal advocate Lori Brown of Florida was visiting her county fair when she came across an exhibit of an emu being held beneath a chicken wire coop.  The fencing was so low that the animal had to creep around in a hunched position. Lori began making complaints.

“I called the fair to express my concerns and was told someone would be calling me back,” Lori said. “Well, no one ever did. So today I went back by the fair and showed them the video and explained that this was cruel confinement. The only thing they offered up was that things would be different next year.”

So Lori decided to take matters into her own hands and reached out to friends on Facebook who joined in with additional phone calls, and suddenly the matter was resolved. The emu was relocated to a more suitable area and one wonders if anything would have been done were it not for the others who rallied and made phone calls to the fair.

So the question is, what would you do?  If you came upon a situation of cruelty or neglect, would you speak out?  Would you be willing to ask family and friends to lend their voices too? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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delilah st louis
delilah st louisabout a year ago

Animals are not here on this planet for our entertainment n'or our pocketbook

Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitneyabout a year ago

All animals are born free and should live freely. Thank you for caring and sharing.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitneyabout a year ago

Haven't been to any fairs or circus's for years and wouldn't go now . Thank you for caring and sharing.

Thomas Brueckner
Thomas Brueckner4 years ago


Sheri D.
Sheri D.4 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Colleen Prinssen
Colleen Prinssen4 years ago

Diane L.. sometimes they race late. and a horse might be in the last. and the track is hour(s) away. so at times she would get home at 2 am. then she'd want to get to work early to get crap done because sometimes it won't get done. so she'd want to get in at 5:30 or 6 whatever AM.

and then of course, have to give them dinner if she had gotten home at 3 pm, then go back out for their dinner and drive home.

since she moved out I had no allergies(almost none) I think she'd track something home from the barn. maybe I am allergic to horse dust.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

I know, Colleen. I've been the "groom" for my own horses for many decades, and at shows, you bet the hours are long and unforgiving. There are no 15-minute "coffee breaks" or "lunch hour", and many a night was spent sleeping in a stall next to my mare. I couldn't afford to hire anyone else to care for her and her needs came before mine. Many a day/afternoon/evening, it was pushing midnight before I ate, yet she was fed on time, each and every day there. I think in the harness racing "industry", family involvement is even more prevalent than the "in the saddle" (TB) industry, and owners and family are more typically "hands on", but we don't have harness racing near where I live, and find that lacking.

Colleen Prinssen
Colleen Prinssen4 years ago

Diane L.

my mom is a groom in a harness racing barn. maybe the owners have it cushy, but she dosen't. sometimes get a lot of sleep. and not every night the horse races. but she dosen't get vacation.
the horses get vet care and dental work.
but she dosen't get uh. human health care, like with an insurance.

I don't think her job comes with health insurance plan, or to help or to pay for her chiropractic work she needs from having her arms be messed up from pully horses.
you know, they jump and pull on a lead.

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

"I avoid these fairs along with the circus and rodeos and I abhore bull fighting, cock fighting, dog fighting, horse racing, or any type of event that exploits and endangers animals in any way, shape or form. "..........Katherine W., I'd agree with you to some extent. However, when is the last time you saw bull fighting at a county fair, or even at a sanctioned rodeo? When is the last time cock-fighting was held in a public event such as a fair or circus or rodeo? Dog fighting and cock fighting are BOTH illegal, period. Horse racing, yes, has it's evils, and nobody understands that more than I do, but we're talking about abuse at fairs in regards to cows giving birth publically, and animal abuse in circus' and rodeos a a side-line to that. Racing doesn't have to involve abuse. Maybe it's abusive to expect horses to ever race freely amongst themelves? Dang those animals, anywway! Secretariat (the movie) happened to be on Starz last night and I watched it for the 5th and 6th time. Explain how that horse was pushed to win The Belmont (by 31 lengths) when no competition and the jockey was merely hanging on?