4 min read

Mystified in Maryland

<p>Photo credit: Lindsay Rajt</p>

Okay, not sure if this is somehow "outing" me as a geek, but back in my teens, I loved the Renaissance Festival. The jousting, the singing, the performances, the costumes and the role-playing, the food: in general, the festive mood of it all, and the transportation to a different time and place.

So, I was completely mystified when Born Free USA Program Associate Kate Dylewsky told me that the Maryland Renaissance Festival has elephant and camel rides! How depressing. How foreign. How inappropriate. How dangerous. How cruel. How... well, not festive!

Now, it's particularly odd, because the elephant and camel rides are not well-advertised: almost an afterthought. It's not on the TV commercials. It's tucked away in the back corner of the festival grounds. It's not a defining feature of the event.

But, it is also horrible entertainment. Sad for the elephants and camels; risky for the humans. Elephants in these types of performances are often chained for long periods of time, and are surely kept in unnatural conditions. The Born Free USA Exotic Animal Incidents Database shows that people can be injured in these "rides."

And so, the show goes on-but not without strong objection. Kate, her colleague, Megan Knauss, and demonstrators from PETA staged a protest at the event this past weekend. The festival's president, Jules Smith (who has already hung up on Kate once on the telephone), remains indignant; he screamed at the peaceful demonstrators that they were "ignorant" and "crazy," and tried to have police remove them. When that attempt was unsuccessful, due to the protest being held on public land, he suspiciously monitored the protest for the rest of the morning with one of his lackeys. Forget mystifying... just pathetic.

What's the point? Why is he wedded to particularly cruel entertainment? Maybe he's ignorant and doesn't realize the suffering and danger involved. Maybe he's crazy and doesn't care. Or, maybe he's just a stubborn fool who won't listen to reason.

He will get the message eventually, though. Kate and Megan and our many supporters-compassionate, smart, sane supporters-will make sure of it.

Keep Wildlife in the Wild, Adam