Wild animals used in circus' and fairs has been a debated topic for as long as I can remember. Locally we've seen headlines involving the Lions Club Dalton Circus, but a recent viral Face Book post has put the spotlight on The Big E.

The viral post stems from Nicole Collyer who observed Minnie, an elephant being used for children's ride, and claimed the animal was "clearly malnourished and sick".  The post has been shared over 20,000 times, putting pressure on the beloved Eastern States Exposition to put an end to exhibits that feature captive wild life.

According to Western Mass News, Minnie is an Asian elephant who is under the care of R.W. Commerford and Sons, a traveling zoo that's been in business for over 40 years. In speaking with the Springfield based news organization, Tim Commerford owner of the traveling zoo, claims that people spreading the viral post are "extremists" who don't really know what they're talking about. He went on to say that Minnie is in great health, receives excellent care and always has fresh food and water.

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

Tim Commerford, owner R.W. Commerford & Sons


Commerford admitted to Western Mass News that there have been what he calls "minor issues" over the years, "dumb issues, nothing crazy".  The news outlet reached out to the Unites States Department of Agriculture, who monitor the animal exhibits, to verify the allegations.  The USDA said that R.W. Commerford and Sons has been cited by the by the organization on several occasions, but did not comment more than that, but the 2017 inspection is available to read here.

The Face Book post and it's 20,000 shares have spawned a Change.org petition trying remove animal exhibits from The Big E. Both Commerford and Eastern States Exposition President and CEO Gene Cassidy believe that this petition is being organized by activists with an agenda, an agenda which in their opinion will take away a very special experience to see these animals up close.

An official statement from The Big E:

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...

...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.


While many activists continue to spread their petition, many say boycotting fairs like The Big E is the only way to get these acts removed. Will you hit The Big E this year despite the animal controversy?


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