The Barnstable County Fair, now in its 169th season, starts up tomorrow and this year, the opening of the 8-day event is not without controversy. Yarmouth Port-based International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is drawing attention to one of the exhibits that is part of this year's fair.
The Rainforest Experience, according to IFAW, features tiger and primates doing "circus" tricks three times a day. The show "masquerades as a valuable educational experience," says Kelly Donithan, IFAW's Wildlife Rescue Program Officer. According to Donithan, in addition to performing several times a day for the length of the fair, the big cats and other animals will be on display for fair-goers.
The Rainforest Experience is produced by Orlando-based PM Productions Entertainment, Inc. According to their website, "conservation and environmental awareness take center stage."
Not so, says IFAW, charging the producers of the show with exploiting both the animals in the show and the public's naivety.
“Wild animals belong in the wild, not on display in traveling sideshows. Acts, such as this one, do not come close to prioritizing the biological and psychological needs of their wild animals,” said Donithan. "Even most zoo animals are not exposed to this extreme level of up-close and constant exhibition."
The Rainforest Experience is only one of the many animal exhibits at the fair which still holds true to its agricultural roots. The Barnstable County Fair began in 1844 with mostly livestock and agricultural exhibits. Today, the Barnstable County Fair still features horse pulls, dressage and horse jumping in addition to livestock exhibits, K-9 demonstrations, a 4-H dog show and the very popular Birds of Prey exhibit featuring eagles, hawks, falcons and owls.
Barnstable County Fair organizers could not be reached for comment.