WATCH: eyewitness video of the exploitation of wildlife at the Barnstable County Fair

After attending the Barnstable County Fair on the 20th of July and watching two of the three Rainforest Experience shows that day, my initial concerns for the welfare of the animals and the true value of the educational messages were only amplified greatly by what I witnessed.

For example, the vast majority of the animals appeared underweight, reluctant to follow commands, and uncomfortable in their surroundings. In particular, the cougar was very uneasy in the show, demonstrated by his incessant pacing in a corner, and unwillingness to respond to the trainer’s commands. In both shows, the trainer dragged the cougar by his collar out of the ring at the end of the show.

The County Fair argues that this show is a vital educational program for the public; however, even I was shocked at the complete lack of information provided for most of the animals.

For instance, not one word was dedicated to teaching the audience about tigers. Instead, the trainer awkwardly moved around the ring with the tiger, requesting applause when the tiger simply, and grudgingly, stood on a platform.

Zero attempts were made to educate the public about the species, their threats to survival, or the conservation efforts to protect wild tigers.

What did the audience take away from this show?

I heard one woman nearby proclaim, “I want a tiger!”

Is this the valuable educational program the County Fair expected when they told me, “this is the only way people will learn about animals”?

Even if the show provided facts about tigers or other species, watching a wild animal perform tricks such as rolling over like a pet dog doesn’t truly convey any educational messages about wildlife.

These traveling animal acts do not add any value to the Barnstable County Fair, and in fact take away from what this event used to be about: families, handicrafts, music, livestock and agriculture.


Ask the County Fair not to ruin The Fair’s reputation by including attractions that are clear threats to animal welfare and are void of any educational or conservation value.

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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy