article published in THE JOURNAL NEWS
Journal News, The (Westchester County, NY)
The Journal News
May 28, 2000
Animal activists say show should stay in the past
Author: Barbara Livingston Nackman; Staff
CROTON-ON-HUDSON -Minnie and Ginny calmly strolled back
and forth along the Croton River yesterday, delighting hundreds of children
who came to visit and ride the elephant and camel at Van Cortlandt Manor.
The two exotic creatures of course had no idea that
outside the Historic Hudson Valley site, a half-dozen demonstrators were
defending their rights.
''There is no need to use live animals,'' said Kiley
Blackman of Yonkers, who organized the protest and contends trucking animals
around the country for people's fun is cruel and inhumane.
''The time of live animal acts for people's
entertainment is long gone,'' said Elisabeth Boris of Larchmont, who along
with Blackman represented the Westchester-based animal protection
organization, Recognition of Animal Rights. Joining the protest were members
of the international group, PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of
The women were disappointed that after discussing
concerns with Historic Hudson last year, this year's annual Animals and
Acrobat weekend still included an elephant and camel.
The animals are provided by R.W. Commerford & Sons of
Goshen, Conn., who assured the tourist site that the animals were
well-treated and passed inspections by humane societies.
''We are sympathetic to their (demonstrators')
concerns, but haven't seen evidence of abuse,'' site director Margaret
The weekend event, which continues today and tomorrow,
has become a tradition. There are puppet shows, a roaming fiddler,
children's games, a juggler and marionette theater on the grounds of the
18th- century manor.
The event replicates the traveling entertainment
troupes of the 1800s, said Vetare, which typically included jugglers,
musicians and lions, elephants and camels.
In fact, she said, Old Bet, an elephant from Somers,
was exhibited annually throughout the Northeast and
predates the American circus, which developed around 1820.
Visitors pleasantly accepted the protesters' materials,
which detailed incidents across the country where some animals trampled
spectators and others animals were forced to work long hours in strong heat.
Many visitors, though, lined up for a ride.
''I feel for the animals. We don't really know if they
are suffering and I would be upset if they were,'' said Gina Forgacs of
whose niece, Nicole Pippo, 2, also of Cortlandt, gave a
giant smile and wave from atop Ginny, the camel.
Watching nearby was Phil Garner of Mahopac, a science
teacher in the Carmel school district, who said the animals looked
''It seems to be a good way to introduce animals to
children and even encourage a better understanding,'' he added, while
watching Minnie, the elephant, grab mouthfuls of hay.
Officials at the site said they would reconsider the
animal event next year, but for now they were agreeable to ! the presence of
''The Van Cortlandts were patriots who made many
sacrifices for freedom. I respect people who are committed to a cause. It's
appropriate to allow them their opportunity to speak,'' Vetare said.
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