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For Immediate Release: 08/25/14

Born Free USA, PETA, and Public Protest Exotic Animal Rides at Maryland Renaissance Festival

Demonstrators urge festival to end exploitative elephant and camel rides

Washington, D.C.-- Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, joined People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in hosting a demonstration on Saturday, August 23, protesting the Maryland Renaissance Festival’s use of exotic animals. For several years, the festival has offered rides on live elephants and camels. This exhibit contributes to inhumane treatment of these animals, and also poses a serious threat to public safety.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, “The Maryland Renaissance Festival should thrive on its strengths: the costumes, shows, and food that people come to enjoy. There is no need to supplement the festival activities with an exhibition that comes at so high a price for the animals and people involved. Wild animals belong in the wild, not confined to a small area, forced to have human contact, and featured on display for public entertainment.”

Elephants in these types of exhibits are often chained for long periods of time and are kept in unnatural conditions. The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and internationally recognized experts in elephant care, science, and conservation issued a statement last year condemning elephant rides, saying, “Given current knowledge, it is unjustifiable to use elephants for recreational rides, and it is wrong to allow elephants to suffer just so they can entertain us.”

The two elephants at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, Topsy and Annette, are owned by Frank Murray under the company name “Elephant Walk.” Murray has been bringing them around a circuit of fairs and circuses for several years. He was arrested in New Jersey in 2011 on an outstanding warrant related to animal cruelty charges. He has also been cited by the USDA for his animal care, but they have failed to follow up with the appropriate enforcement.

Additionally, rides on exotic animals pose a real danger to public safety, as demonstrated by the many incidents catalogued in Born Free USA’s Exotic Animal Incidents Database.

Born Free USA has attempted to reach out to Jules Smith, the President of the festival, multiple times. Following the demonstration, Born Free USA followed up with another request for a meeting. No response has been received.

Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation” — the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son, Will Travers. Born Free USA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, and www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa.

Media contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

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