Note: The following story being posted is the original version (originally from my Newswriting II course) of a condensed paper I’ve modified for my Online Journalism course. Again, sorry for the diverging topics but I’ll have some original, non-school related material coming soon! Most likely by Friday!
MADISON—The Environmental Club at Daniel Hand High School is planning a petition to ask people to boycott the Guilford Fair if the entertainment company returns, due to their use of poorly treated circus animals
The petition was prompted by Hawthorn Corps use of caged, domesticated, rehabilitated, and exotic animals at the annual Guilford Fair from Sept. 17th-19th.
The petition calls for a boycott of Hawthorn Corp. at future Guilford Fairs said Chris Pagliuco, club adviser and social studies teacher. If Hawthorn Corp. were to return, Pagliuco and his supporters would boycott attending the Guilford Fair.
Pagliuco said he wants the petition to raise awareness of caged circus animals not living in their natural habitat. The club will send the petition to the fair committee within the coming months, and have been collecting signatures at their events such as harvest and beach clean ups. They will seek 1,000 signatures from the Guilford and Madison area in support of the boycott.
Before the petition is circulated for public signatures, Pagliuco said preliminary issues would have to be covered. These include determining if the Guilford Fair Committee plans to bring Hawthorn Corp. back to the Guilford Fair, and specifying what types of animals were used during the fair to make the petition as clear as possible. The hope is to specify exactly what was wrong with Hawthorn Corps. use of animals at the fair, and to make sure it never happens at not only the Guilford Fair, but neighboring fairs as well said Pagliuco.
Nancy Maturo, vice president of the Guilford Agricultural Society said all entertainment
decisions go through fair organizer Harvey Smith. Smith said not only does he plan to book Hawthorn Corp. for Guilford’s fair next year but that the animals in question were given the best possible care.
“There was no abuse other than their perception that they were in small cages, but these are traveling cages regulated by the governor,” said Smith. “We have come so far in our zoos and awareness,” said Smith. “Yes these animals are still tailored but they have to meet USDA regulations.”
Tailored animals, Smith said are animals that have been trained to do things that aren’t a part of their natural instinct. Examples from the fair include tigers jumping through hoops of fire.
Despite this, Smith said the animals specifically the cats still find comfort in being caged, and living as circus animals.
Smith said cats attack prey and sleep in the shade afterwards. They don’t roam around and are perfectly content in cages after they’ve eaten. Smith said this is what we consider “catnapping”; cats eat, and sleep afterwards. Animals like cats don’t need to be in their natural habitat; for if they had to be, the USDA wouldn’t sign off on them being used in zoos and circus shows.
Smith said the opinions against the use of circus animals are outrageous, and are led by misinformed people.
“To instill their opinions on minds with potential that are going to lead the conservation of the future, they really have to be given not only both sides but the facts,” said Smith “I would only bring in the finest animals.”
Pagliuco however, had a different view of the animals at the Guilford Fair.
“The tigers looked rather mangy. They were pacing in the cages which is some pretty common knowledge about poor treatment,” said Pagliuco. “There were several tigers to a cage, the clothing of the trainer was leather and communicated messages of domination. He carried a whip which I don’t know if he used or not but nevertheless the message is there.”
Terry Webster, former biology professor and UConn Biology advisor said intuitively he has shared Pagliuco’s views of the animals at hand. He compared the pacing of zoo animals to his experience with visiting the insane asylums in the 1950s.
“People would be emitting these primal screams and you’d see people who were not confined just walking in circles,” said Webster. “Bringing it back to zoo animals, you can imagine the type of treatment they’re receiving if they’re doing similar things.”
Pagliuco, whom was shocked by the presentation of the Guilford Fair was surprised to learn that Hawthorn Corp. already has a 20-year history of mistreatment with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“We didn’t even know they were cited for cruelty,” said Pagliuco. “Turns out they do have the history and I’m planning on documenting that as part of the petition.”
Hawthorn Corp., which is based in Illinois and run by John Cuneo, has been cited for over 120 different violations with PETA, including nearly $300,000 in fines, and has had its license suspended twice. Violations were filed by, and prosecuted by the USDA said Drew Winter of PETA. The violations range from deaths and injuries of animals and humans, to improper care of animals, said PETA.
“We have been following Hawthorn for decades, appealing to the USDA to take action after every report of abuse,” said Ryan Huling, PETA’s assistant manager of college campaigns.
Hawthorn Corp., which has been a part of the Guilford Fair for a number of years, had only supplied acrobats as entertainment in previous years said Pagliuco. He thinks the town has only began to use animals during their fair due to monetary reasons.
“Guilford Fair charges an arm and a leg to get in,” said Pagliuco. “It’s $5 for parking, and $10 a person,” said Pagliuco. “I think they just have a need for eyebrow raising attractions,” said Pagliuco.
Pagliuco may have a point. In neighboring towns in East Haven, Branford and Clinton there is no admittance charge. Neither of these towns uses circus animals, or Hawthorn Corp.
East Haven uses East-West Productions for their annual Fall Festival in September according to Michael Albis, chairman of the fair. Likewise, Clinton’s Blue Fish Festival in June only uses local vendors said Bonnie Pudem, secretary in Clinton’s town hall. The office manager of Branford’s town hall Monica Sullivan said Branford’s Summer Festival, also in June, uses Bowden Amusements. All of the fairs also use local venders for smaller booths.
The Guilford Fair is the second oldest agricultural fair in Connecticut according to its website. The fair began in 1859, and is traditionally run in September on Hunter Farm off Lover’s Lane in Guilford by the Guilford Agricultural Society.
Besides the petition, Pagliuco and the environmental club are keeping busy with other activities this school year. The club plans to make bat houses to raise awareness for a fungus that is killing bats, volunteer at the Hammonasset nature center, take a field trip to the trash museum, and make a donation to the Madison school budget to purchase more recycle bins for the athletic fields.