WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A Facebook post featuring an elephant at The Big E over the weekend has gone viral, with over 20,000 people sharing an online petition calling for the end of wild animal acts at the popular New England fair.
This isn’t the first time the traveling petting zoo in question has been the target of protesters.
You’ve may have seen this Facebook post circulating the internet, claiming this elephant at The Big E is clearly sick. A petition followed calling for an end to animal acts at fairs.
“Ya know, they're extremists. They don't know," said Tim Commerford with R.W. Commerford and Sons.
The image is of an Asian elephant named Minnie, not in her native lands, but under the care of R.W. Commerford and Sons at The Big E.
“Been in my family about 45 years. She's coming in to 51, a little over 50 right now. It's troublesome. It's like me telling you you're no good at your job. I don't know you, but it's troublesome," said Commerford.
Commerford owns the traveling zoo. He said that there’s a couple things wrong with this petition.
The first being: "[Is Minnie in bad health?] Actually, she is in great health. Everybody says well, she's got this pink pigmentation and the skin and all this right here. If you wash an Asian elephant, you keep 'em really clean,. That's their natural color. This is dead skin right here. That's gonna fall off,” Commerford added.
Minnie’s also being well cared for with fresh water and food at the ready.
“You drop it in there, it goes in the mouth. The other elephant prefers you stick the hose in their mouth," Commerford said.
Both Commerford and Eastern States Exposition President and CEO Gene Cassidy said that that this petition is being organized by activists with an agenda and that agenda will take away a very special experience to see these animals up close.
“It's an elephant, a zebra, a rabbit, a cow, a horse, fairs are about agriculture. Now, everybody goes 'we don't have elephants. This isn't in Massachusetts' but it is agriculture in Thailand or Burma or Africa. When you come to the fair, it's a feast of the world, the harvest of the year," Commerford explained.
Cassidy added in a statement to Western Mass News that every animal at the fair is properly cared for and in the elephants case: “The USDA monitors the elephants on a regular basis. The elephants are in perfectly good health, well fed, well cared for and, importantly, loved.”
Even so, Commerford admitted there have been what he calls minor issues.
“There's been some dumb things over the years, nothing crazy. Generally, it's the saddle isn't right," Commerford said.
Nevertheless, the elephant exhibit will remain at The Big E, as it has for years.
Western Mass News reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to verify the claims of this petition, which said that R.W. Commerford and Sons has been cited by the USDA on several occasions, but we have not heard back.
The full statement from Cassidy appears below:
"Eastern States Exposition stands tall in the support of the animals it showcases and presents to millions of fairgoers who, without the opportunity, would not have the chance to witness animals up close.
ESE and others are being targeted by activists who want to propagate a message that is untrue.
Furthermore, they are targeting collateral small businesses associated with ESE and are affecting people’s lives and livelihoods as they propagate a false message that unfortunately people receive as truth. Eastern States has no stress with the animals on the grounds and the way that they are cared for because we monitor their care ourselves. In this case, the USDA monitors the elephants on a regular basis. The elephants are in perfectly good health, well fed, well cared for and, importantly, loved.
We are one of the largest agricultural organizations in the country in terms of the length, width and breadth of people that we impact in our support of and education about animals, and we are proud of our programs and partners.