California is making some great strides for wild animals this year. Days after the Los Angeles Shrine Circus announced plans to go animal-free, we learned that San Diego will not host elephant rides at this summer’s county fair.
Have Trunk Will Travel, an elephant training company currently under investigation for animal abuse, was invited to serve the 2014 fair, but company owners Kari and Gary Johnson chose not to. The Johnsons insist that their decision has nothing to do with criticism and pressure from animal rights groups.
Recently, the company declined to renew their certification from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, who have strengthened their animal treatment requirements. Their updated regulations include limiting contact between humans and elephants, which goes against the company’s approach. The Johnsons remain supportive of controlling elephants with poker-like weapons called bullhooks.
Though Have Trunk Will Travel remains unmoved by animal rights groups, it’s clear that activist efforts have played a role in convincing legislators and business owners to take action against animal cruelty. The Johnsons’ outdated use of the bullhook, which has been banned in L.A. and the San Diego zoo, is not doing their company any favors. In recent years, thanks to PETA campaigns, elephant rides have been eliminated at the Santa Ana Zoo, the L.A. County Fair, and the Orange County Fair.
San Diego County Fair spokeswoman Linda Zweig still hopes Have Trunk Will Travel will change their mind, but we hope this year’s success will show that the fair can be even more fun without elephant rides.