Nearly two dozen animal activists staged a candle-light vigil at the gates of the Big E in West Springfield Sunday evening, joining thousands of demonstrators around the world calling for a ban on the use of large animals in traveling entertainment shows.
For the first time, the Western Massachusetts Animal Rights Advocates joined the “Annual International Vigil 4 Elephants” in memory of two elephants who died this past year.
Spokesperson Sheryl Becker said one of the elephants named Beulah was 52 years old when she died at the Big E grounds on September 15 after carrying riders. Her sister, Karen, 38, died in March at the Commerford Petting Zoo headquarters in Goshen, CT, the owners of the animals.
“Beulah died about 500 feet from her,” Becker said pointing into the Exposition grounds. “She collapsed three times the day before she died, but each time handlers got her back on her feet and kept her going.”
According to a statement from the Nonhuman Rights Project, the US Department of Agriculture reported that Beulah died from a painful infection of the uterus — an infection that could have been treated, activists said.
The USDA has jurisdiction over large farm and exotic animals.
Becker said local activists are calling on local venues, including the Big E and the Mass Mutual Center, to discontinue using elephants as part of their entertainment package, saying the way elephants are used by traveling shows has little value to patrons — especially educational purposes.
“There is no need to see a live elephant to learn about them,” she said. “The Springfield Museum has a wonderful display of an elephant. Seeing elephants live at a place like this only shows you the animal in its unnatural condition — in captivity.”
Big E President Eugene Cassidy told the Springfield Republican on September 20, that he hopes R.W. Commerford and Sons bring more elephants to the Exposition in future years.
“These so-called animal rights groups taken to the extreme are terrorists,” he said. “Presenting animals to help people understand what they fulfill an educational mission at the Eastern States. These groups used the natural events of a beautiful, healthy elephant passing away in the normal course of its life as a means by which to gin up supports and raise contributions to themselves.”
The Western Massachusetts Animal Rights Advocates are also throwing their support behind legislation in the State House banning not only elephants but big cats, primates, bears and giraffes from use in traveling shows.
S. 2028 in the Senate and H. 2934 in the House have been reported out of committee and are moving to the Ways and Means committees in each chamber.