Elephant rides to be held at fair in Del Mar again this year

By Joe Tash

Elephant rides – a tradition at the San Diego County Fair for nearly 30 years – will once again be offered at this year’s fair, in spite of a renewed effort by opponents of the rides to have them banned from the fairgrounds.

A dozen speakers urged the board of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which runs the state-owned fairgrounds, to ban the ride at this year’s fair, which runs from June 8 through July 4.

The board, however, voted unanimously at its meeting on Tuesday, March 12, to approve a contract with Have Trunk Will Travel, which has operated the fair’s elephant rides for 29 years, to provide the rides at this year’s fair.

The issue came up last in November 2011, when dozens of people spoke for more than two hours before the board, both in favor of and opposing the elephant rides.  At that time, a motion to ban the rides failed to get the required votes, so a compromise was reached in which the board will reconsider the issue following the 2014 fair

At Tuesday’s meeting, board members – even those who were in favor of banning the rides at the November 2011 meeting – said they wanted to stick by their earlier decision and take up the issue again after next year’s fair.

In 2014, new guidelines from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums will take effect, advising elephant trainers to avoid all direct contact with elephants, and instead work with the animals through a barrier.

The fair board voted in spite of pleas from ride opponents, including animal rights activists, who said the animals are subjected to cruel treatment by trainers, and that the rides pose a safety risk to children.

“Not only are they cruel, unusual and inhumane, but they’re an accident waiting to happen,” said Melissa MacDonald.

“We’re wondering why the fairgrounds is continuing to play Russian roulette with the elephant rides,” Jane Cartmill of San Diego Animal Advocates.

Board members, however, said they had not seen evidence either of abuse to elephants by Have Trunk Will Travel, or incidents in which children were injured on elephant rides.

“I’m not convinced… that there’s been injury to children from riding elephants, at least in the last 10 years,” said director Frederick Schenk.

Director Russ Penniman said there is educational value to allowing children to interact with elephants, because some children might not be able to see them at local attractions such as the zoo or safari park.  He denied that the rides, which generated just under $13,000 for the fairgrounds in 2011, were a major revenue generator, as some ride opponents suggested

“This is not a money issue,” Penniman said.

Related posts:

  1. Ag. board votes to keep elephant rides at San Diego County Fair
  2. 22nd District Agricultural Association board looks into alleged elephant abuse
  3. Animal rights activists allege elephant abuse
  4. This year’s San Diego County Fair offers new food, exhibits, wine festival, rides and a ‘shopper shuttle’
  5. Board approves 2013 smoking ban at San Diego County Fair

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Posted by Staff on Mar 13, 2013. Filed under Carmel Valley, Del Mar, News, Solana Beach, carmel valley. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

58 Comments for “Elephant rides to be held at fair in Del Mar again this year”

  1. Cristina Ferrari

    Kids do not need to interact with elephants,and elephants don’t want to interact with humans.Leave the elephants alone!!!!!

    • Jack Beebe

      How wonderful that the elephant rides will continue!!! How great it is that children will be able see these wonderful animals up close and in person and not on some small TV screen!!

      • Gary Payne

        Up close is a far more educational experience! My children appreciate animals and do their part in saving dogs and large birds, BECAUSE they went to the circus, rode elephants, and were in close proximity to tigers and other performing animals.

    • Sheri Davis

      Christina – We simply can’t leave elephants alone as they are being slaughtered in the wild by the thousands. Killed for their tusks, because they get into farmers crops or for many other reasons….the only way to protect them is for children to see how magnificent they are – what gentle giants they are. Children and adults need to work with true animal groups to protect elephants in the wild or there will be very few left in the world except in places like the United States where they are protected. Don’t be deceived by EXTREME animal activist groups whose main purpose is to raise money but benefits very few animals. Since I work with the film industry, we know when videos are circulated to fair grounds about abuse of elephants that they have been altered to present fraudulent images for their own purposes. I sincerely hope that you come to appreciate experiencing elephants in person at the fairs

    • Mini Mouse

      The following speaks for itself! Time to fight back!
      VIENNA, VA – Dec. 28, 2012 – Feld Entertainment, Inc., the producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus, announced today that the company has reached a legal settlement with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in connection with two federal court cases. Under the settlement, ASPCA has paid Feld Entertainment $9.3 million to settle all claims related to its part in more than a decade of manufactured litigation that attempted to outlaw elephants in the company’s Ringling Bros. ® Circus. This settlement applies only to the ASPCA. Feld Entertainment’s legal proceedings, including its claims for litigation abuse and racketeering, will continue against the remaining defendants, Humane Society of the United States, the Fund for Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Protection Institute United with Born Free USA, Tom Rider and the attorneys involved.

      “These defendants attempted to destroy our family-owned business with a hired plaintiff who made statements that the court did not believe. Animal activists have been attacking our family, our company, and our employees for decades because they oppose animals in circuses. This settlement is a vindication not just for the company but also for the dedicated men and women who spend their lives working and caring for all the animals with Ringling Bros. in the face of such targeted, malicious rhetoric,” said Kenneth Feld, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Feld Entertainment.

  2. Holly Gold

    I attend the fair each year just to experience the elephant rides. It is amazing to have such an up-close encounter with such magnificent and rare animals!

  3. Estphen Toth

    If we leave Elephants alone they will die . There are dying in Africa and in Asia due to a loss of habitat. There is nothing wroug with having people see and learn and even ride an elephant. I 100% support the rides @ the fair. The Johnsons have done more for elephant education than any animal rights groups could ever dream.

  4. Ned Kronberg

    How is it a few with some radical ideas are always trying to take away experiences we all grew up with ?

    Just how many accidents or incidents have there been with elephant rides? I am willing to bet there have been more people hurt just tripping over curbs or slipping on some dropped treat at any fair or event
    How many time do we have to see the same old footage claiming abuse
    but they never say were when or even tt could be why
    its like the shepard boy yelling wolf after awhile it looses it effect or at least should
    I support the use of animals I do beleive in their welfair but rights?? I can not support

    • Ziggy Pope

      So let me get this right…just because you grew up with it, means that continuing to exploit a wild animals in chained bondage is ok? Really? Is that all your big human brain has evolved?

    • Darren

      I was one of those activists. How is it a radical notion not to want such amazing animals exploited? Have you not seen the abuse Elephants go through to learn how to do their “tricks” just for you? Are you really so selfish that you think you have a right to have an animal taken away from its own social family and habitat only to be imprisoned just so it can entertain you?

      You are exactly the kind of person that would have owned slaves and made them sing and dance for other white folk, just to show off to them how clever their slave (pets) are, and you would have thought nothing ill of it. You people seriously need to develop some critical thinking skills, and develop some compassion.

  5. Nancy

    I congratulate the Board members on continuing the elephant rides at the San Diego County Fair. This is a wonderful attraction run by caring people.

  6. T Hall

    I have enjoyed the elephants at the fair for many years. They are always amazing ,beautiful, gentle and intelligent and what an experience to see them up close and personal. I look forward to seeing them again at this years fair.

  7. H P Wilkinson

    Thank you Del Mar! This wonderful tradition allows persons of all ages to experience first hand the amazing connection between elephant and trainer. Truly partners in their task as they move throughout the procedures of the elephant ride and immerse themselves in a relationship built on training and trust.

  8. Jim

    Bravo Board Members. The elephant rides have been, and will continue to be an important part of the fair experience. I applaud your choice not to bow to the pressure from a small but vocal group of people who oppose these rides.

  9. Linda Reifschneider

    Delighted to hear Have Trunk Will Travel will be offering elephant rides again at the San Diego fair. These are well cared for elephants (truly among the lucky ones, when you understand what is happening to their wild cousins these days!) and their owners are great supporters of elephant conservation and advanced medical research benefiting both wild and in-our-care elephants. I’m delighted my grandsons will again be enjoying this great and completely safe opportunity to share a moment with these magnificent creatures.

  10. Alice Wisdom

    Seeing and experiencing an elephant in person is a life-changing experience. Both the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park have started to move toward MORE direct contact with animals for the zoo patrons because they know it makes a bigger impact. When it comes to conservation for these animals it is key that people feel a connection and studies have proven that looking at pictures and movies does not do enough. The animal rights extremists who oppose elephant rides do not do anything to help save this endangered species, instead they attack people who are actively trying to fight elephants’ extinction. The same people attacking elephant rides at the fair lobbied to stop having elephants at the LA Zoo where there is no rides or contact with elephants; they would do the same thing with the elephants here in our zoo and safari park if they could. Animal rights extremists have a larger agenda to remove all animals from human care and we must not let them succeed.

  11. Audrey C

    My children and grandchildren have grown up riding the elephants from Have Trunk Will Travel. It is a wonderful experience for children to learn about these gentle and beautiful animals. We have been to numerous fairs over the years and have never seen or heard of any injuries.

  12. Maxine H

    Riding an elephant is a life-long experience. I’m glad that Del Mar Fair will continue to provide it. Thank you!

  13. Dolores

    Every year our family goes to the fair, and to be honest with you, it has become a tradition for each and every member of our family ride an elephant! That is one of the main reasons we go to the fair! These beautiful creatures are magnificent, and the inter-action between them and us is something we talk about over and over. We have noticed that the elephants are very well cared for, and that their facilities are absolutely spotless! I wish all animal owners took care of their own animals half as well as the owners of these elephants do.

  14. Ernie Guderjahn

    How shallow we are, in many parts of the earth elephants are considered the domestic equal of the horse, no more and no less. They are respected for their working with humans to enrich the lives of both beings. I suggest when you read the criticism of elephants at the fair that you substitute the word “horse” for “elephant” and see if the arguments stand up. With American children (and many adults) so unaware of the rest of the world, I welcome anything that will help to broaden their perspective.

  15. Larry Maturo

    Elephants get along well with people if they are not mistreated. My family owned an elephant, Judy, and when she got scared she would run and hide behind my father. We gave elephant rides on her, and no one was ever injured.
    I have seen pictures of how the elephants are kept by Have Trunk Will Travel, and they treat their elephants well. People who have seen “Water for Elephants” get the wrong idea. The elephant hooks we had did not have a sharp point. They were rounded at the end, and merely directed the elephant. Elephants are smart enough to learn without having to resort to mistreatment. Some of the same techniques you would use with dogs works with elephants, and I can tell you I would never mistreat my dogs.

  16. Shirley Cox

    Kudos to the Del Mar County Fair board to sticking to their guns and not falling prey to the animal extremist jargon. The elephant rides have been a huge part of my family. We go to the fair every year to ride the elephants and get a family photo, it is a tradition. Frankly, it is a tradition we would hate to see end. We love the elephants, and if you stand and watch for a while and you can see how the elephants are cared for. Everyone must start using common sense and tell the extremist to go pound sand, we have a right to enjoy and as well as be amazed by these elephants!

  17. Mary L.

    Many thanks to the Board of the San Diego County Fair for making decisions on factual information. These beautiful animals are ambassadors for their kind. Personal experiences with elephants increases a person’s awareness of the responsibility we have with regard to all the animals we share this earth with. As for the rides being dangerous…Have Trunk Will Travel’s record speaks for itself.

  18. Thank goodness. These animals are a wonderful addition to all of the fairs nationwide. I welcome Have Trunk Will Travel in our community and at any functions were people can interact with them. These animals are warm, loving creatures that actually LOVE human interaction (Kind of like dogs & cats). Thank You board members for allowing our children to experience a fine group of people at Have Trunk Will Travel and their wonderful creatures. My hats off to all the wonderful people who make enjoying life much better opposed to the ones whom try to destroy lives, families, companies, and just plain ol good time family fun.

  19. Charlie S

    Out hats are very off to the board of the 22nd DAA for focusing on the facts and not the opinions of those with a clear and present bias towards any animal related activity with humans. As stated by so many above, the educational value and memory both kids and adults gain from such experiences is historically invaluable to both kids and adults. Our kids simply can not afford to loose any more of these historical experiences than they have already! Those who are truly aware of and experienced with elephants know that such activities are both mentally stimulating and physically beneficial to the elephants that participate and as companies providing such services go, Have Trunk Will Travel is by far, one of the best.

  20. Pam M

    I congrat the fair board for unanimously voting for the return of these beautiful elephants; my fair experience would not be as positive without these beautiful creatures. It is so sad that a few misinformed activist try to ruin the pleasure of the majority.

  21. Kenda Rice

    Thank you Board for continuing to allow the elephant rides. We must inspire our young people in conservation for these wonderful, amazingly intelligent animals that are disappearing from our Earth. What better way to inspire than to allow them an up close and personal contact of these gentle giants. It doesn’t compare to reading about them in a book or seeing them from far away behind a fence. They will also witness a human animal bond that is so strong that a massive animal willingly chooses to obey soft spoken commands of their trusted human partner. Thank you Board and thank you Have Trunk Will Travel. We are indebted to you for the education you provide on these wonderful animals.

  22. Diane B

    Congrats to the board for voting the elephant rides back to the fair. I have rode the Have Trunk Will Travel elephants at various locations and enjoyed the experience immensely. I have also been to their “home” and interacted with them never fearing my safety!

  23. Carol Olson

    Many thanks to the officials at the Del Mar Fair for allowing the Johnson’s to have their wonderful elephants give rides again this year. The elephant rides are the main reason we attend the fair. My children love to see and ride those gentle giants each year and if they had their way, that’s all they would do all day. Those elephants seem to enjoy giving the rides as much as my children enjoy having them. Big hugs and kisses to the elephants and the officials.

  24. Gary Payne

    Congratulations to the Fair Board for allowing elephant rides! This is a wonderful way of entertaining youngsters while educating them as to the importance of elephant conservation. Kudos for not being bullied or influenced by the propaganda and scare tactics of the animal wrongists. There is no empirical evidence to support the idea that these elephants are bused or that riding is dangerous….indeed the ride to Fair in your automobile is the greater concern. The whims of a few activists should not ruin this experience for the rest of us.

  25. Kim

    Thank you Del Mar for bringing the Johnsons Back with Have Trunk will Travel……they are wonderful people who love and care for their wonderful elephants.

    Thank you again!!!!!


  26. The Del Mar Fair is showing great understanding for the importance of interaction between humans and elephants…and great courage for standing up to the activists who strive to remove all human-animal interaction. Have Trunk Will Travel has an exemption from the AZA policy regarding human contact with elephants. HTWT’s elephants are highly trained and accustomed to human interaction. Riding an elephant is a wonderful experience for anyone. It’s the largest animal anyone can safely have contact with…which has been shown throughout thousands of years of history. Our culture is ignorant of the domestication of elephants as helpmates in a civilized world.

  27. Cc elephant

    Thank you, thank you , thank you board members for sticking up for what is right and not being bullied by the extremists that attend every board meeting. I am glad they see the big picture. These bullies are focused on the elephants for now, next wi be the horse races, the 4H kids and finally your household pets! Don’t be fooled, they don’t care about the welfare of animals, they have just lost their way and have decided ANY human/animal interaction is wrong. I wish they would focus their efforts on the elephant slaughter that is occurring at this moment in Africa! That is where their focus should be. Bravo again board members!

  28. Cheryl Blackburn

    So glad to hear that the elephants will be at the DelMar fair this year, wish they would return to the Orange County fair too,

    • Lucky Charms

      They won’t. I’m so glad that the board at the Orange County Fair finally woke up and ceased this exploitation. It was nice this year not to have to look at these poor, sad elephants being forced to walk around in a circle for days on end. Good call, Orange County. Now let’s see everyone else follow suit.

  29. Gary Hill

    It always amazes me that people that have never cared for an exotic animal on a day to day basis has any knowledge as to what any animal needs? Good for the members of the board that have the common sense to understand that elephants and contact are a good thing…as a caregiver it is so much easier to treat any wound that any animal can receive and does on its own. To work and have contact with them only helps to make the animals lives better than living in their Habitats that are being taken away from them daily by man..

  30. Jean Brake

    I grew up in the country and would never have seen an elephant until an
    adult age when I moved to the Chicago area…..the County Fair allowed me to
    get up close and see a wonder of “wonders”! What beautiful experiences that I’ll never forget.

  31. Gary Payne

    Congratulations to the Fair Board on the right decision! It’s great to see that you were not influenced by the propaganda of the animal rights fund raising business. Riding an elephant is safer than swimming! Thanks for not being bullied!

  32. Stephanie Hoffmann

    Thank you for keeping the elephants! That is the only reason I brave the fair year to year. I also hope they continue to keep them there and let future generations enjoy the amazing experience of meeting an amazing animal up close. I know my future son will want to have the same experience the rest of his family has had. Thank you Fair Board and Have Trunk Will Travel for giving us this joy!

  33. judie miller

    So glad that elephant lovers will have a chance to ride these wonderful animals and interact with them close up. Our thanks to the rational members of the Board who have made this decision. Judie Miller

  34. Rita M

    Thank you for your courageous decision!

  35. Pamela Meier

    Thank you to the Del Mar Fair Board for voting to keep the elephant rides as part of the Fair! These elephants are well cared for and actually loved. Just look at the wonder on the faces of the children (and, for that matter – some of the adults) as they have the wonderful experience of riding atop these magnificent animals. It is an experience they will remember all of their lives in a positive light.

  36. Don Covington

    Bravo Fair Board. Our family looks forward to seeing the elephants every year at the Del Mar Fair. These magnificent animals are part and parcel of the experience of the Fair, which provides a unique opportunity for citizens of the urban portion of the County to understand the centuries old relationship between man and animal.

  37. JAR

    Congratulations to the Fair Board and the fairgoers! It will be great to see the elephants again. It is the main reason my family goes to the fair. I am so tired of board members being bullied by the extremists. It is about time someone stands up for the men and women that give their lives to help these animals. They work so hard and deserve way more credit.

  38. Peter W. Wagner, President, Circus Fans of America

    As President of Circus Fans of America I spent a full day this February with Have Trunk, Will Travel and one of their wonderful elephants. I’ve also visited the backyard of dozens of circuses with my grandchildren who like me are are quick to speak up against the false truths of the so called animal right activitists. We’ve NEVER seen any sign of mistreatment and only love and great care for the huge beasts. Please don’t let the endless talk of a few, interested more in promoting themselves, their organizational pocketbook and their individual interests and not what is best for all. Thank you for continuing to support the elelphant rides at the fair – and the happy children that exist in all of us.
    PS. My Des Moines, IA, grandchldren ate 14 and 11 and couldn’t wait for me to take them to the circus and their annual elephant ride last month. It was fun for all of us.

  39. Diane Amendola

    Congratulations and Thank you to the Fair Board for a fair and sensible decision. What better way for the world to learn about elephants. As we all know elephants have worked with man for thousands of years and the best way to ensure their continued existence is for people to know them and see them close up.

    It is great to know in California there is a political body (the Fair Board) who comprehends there is a segment of our society so radicalized that they anthropomorphize animals and the very wise Fair Board responded appropriately to the demands of these groups.

  40. R. Storey

    Thumbs up to the Fair Board for its positive action for people and elephants!

  41. MaxBrindle

    My wife and I take the train down from L.A. every year just to ride the elephants. They are the best! We are so happy that the fair board continue to welcome the Have Trunk Will Travel elephants, and my friends and family to your fair. Our family’s tradition of supporting elephants and the San Diego County fair continues. Thank you so much.

  42. LRPeddie

    Kudos to the Del Mar Fair Board for bringing back the Johnson’s wonderful elephant ride! I have done innumerable presentations to school children for whom the highlight of their summer was riding on an elephant! This can be a life changing experience in the most positive way!

  43. Richard Notter

    Three cheers for the Agricultural Board! People deserve the right to have elephant rides if they wish — especially the children. The Johnsons do a super job of caring for their animals. Allegations of abuse could not be further from the truth.

  44. alexis kaiser

    Thank you to the Fair Board for keeping the tradition alive. I hope it continues for years to come. Thank you, too, for not being swayed by AR propaganda. I hope all the other fairs will take up and notice.

  45. Ziggy Pope

    Wow. Just wow. Here I thought that in 2,013 years, TWO THOUSAND years since the baby Jesus was born, man kind would have emotionally and compassionately, and intellectually evolved more than to be complicit to the furthering of chained bondage of a wild animal, for your entertainment.

    I am appalled and stunned anyone that lives in today’s society is still so blatantly cruel to those creatures who have no voice. Shame on you!!!

  46. Rain

    It breaks my heart people still think elephant rides are okay. Where is the compassion for these intelligent and sensitive animals. Elephants deserve better and children deserve better than to be raised to think elephants are for entertainment purposes. Teach your children respect for wildlife. ALL elephants trained to be slaves for human entertainment are abused. The way they are trained and forced to work is cruel. My children will never attend a fair where elephants are abused and exploited.

  47. TEX

    Do a search on “Tim Frisco Elephant Trainer”, watch the videos and read the articles about this man, then say that Elephants aren’t abused during training.

  48. Lucky Charms

    I’m glad that more & more fairs are finally coming to their senses–unlike the Del Mar Fair–and ceasing their association with these charlatans who claim that they’re “helping” elephants by donating to a sham organization connected with the Feld/Ringling Bros. organazition in an attempt to look good to the public. I was pleased to hear that my local county fair no longer uses them and has realized that this is just a cruel exploitation business. Meanwhile, all the selfish, ignorant people on here who are just thrilled that they still get to go on these inane elephant “rides” at the cost of the elephant’s dignity and happiness better enjoy it while they can. The majority of humanity is becoming more sensitive to this issue, and it’s only a short matter of time before the Del Mar Fair board comes to its senses and joins them, saying “Buh-bye” to Have Trunk Will Travel.

  49. Lucky Charms

    It’s really amazing how many people’s “traditions”, i.e. “we’ve come here for YEARS to see the elephants” trump the elephant’s actual welfare and well-being.

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