Group opposes use of elephants at The Big E

Jan. 12, 2021 | Ryan Feyre

WEST SPRINGFIELD – Western Massachusetts Animal Rights Advocates (WMARA) participated in the “International Candlelight Vigil 4 Elephants” on Jan. 16.

The event, which took place  at Gate 4 of the Big E, is an annual vigil that honors Beulah and Karen, two elephants that made yearly appearances at the Big E as performance animals, and were a part of Commerford Petting Zoo. Both died in 2019. Beulah's death took place on the Big E grounds while Karen died at the Commerford Petting Zoo.

The goal of the vigil, which was in its third year this year, is to remind the public of the “horrific cruelty they were forced to endure after being torn from their families in the wild at very young ages,” according to a Facebook post set up by the Western Mass. Animal Advocates.

According to the advocates, Beulah represents every elephant that has been forced under unnatural conditions, and are allowed to be tortured when trained. All traveling elephants suffer emotional distress when they are isolated from other elephants and inside tiny enclosures for long periods of time.

Sheryl Becker, who is a part of the WMARA, said that the goals of their organization are to end the suffering of all animals through activism, education, legislation, networking and collaboration.

“By revealing the shocking facts about traveling wild animal exhibits and shows, the puppy mill industry, animal consumption, and other cruel industries, we are making Western Mass. more humane and happier,” said Becker. “It is critical for residents to be informed about the suffering behind the scenes at fairs, circuses, puppy mills, and farms, and the dangers such cruelty has on humans.”

Outside of the vigil, the group also protests monthly at The Puppy Place in Springfield, and heavily use social media to educate people about their campaigns and animal-friendly legislation. She believes that these projects are more important now, as they will help prevent future pandemics and other serious health problems.

“Members foster, encourage, plan, and take peaceful actions in both education and legislation,” said Becker.

Becker began her animal rights advocacy at 8 years old after being in a puppy mill store for the first time and feeling overwhelmed with sadness. She decided to dedicate the rest of her life to speaking out to animals, protesting, lobbying and petitioning.

“I plan to continue for the rest of my life, especially after Beulah’s death and with the need to end pandemics now,” said Becker.

People should stop supporting exhibits and shows with wild animals  and complain to the venues that host them, according to Becker. On top of that, Becker thinks that everyone should urge their municipal, state, and federal legislators to support animal-friendly legislation.

“WMARA proposed an ordinance to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in Springfield, which is still awaiting a hearing,” said Becker. “People can urge the city council to support that ban.”

According to Becker, it is best for residents to not buy dogs from a store, as most of these dogs are from puppy mills, where deadly health issues are housed. There are many shelters, rescue groups, and breeders to choose from when it comes to purchasing a dog, said Becker.

“The Big E must learn from Beulah’s tragic death and never again have wild animals on their premises,” said Becker. “Her tragic death symbolizes the horrific inhumanity of using wild animals in circuses and exhibits.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the Commerford Petting Zoo has over 50 Animal Welfare Act violations.

“Unfortunately, the Big E CEO stated after Beulah’s death that he wants to have elephants back again,” said Becker. “I hope he has listened to the widespread outcry for change since then, and will make the Big E a safer place for all.”

Tina Welz, a WMARA member and president of Berkshire Voices Defending the Voiceless, was the other organizer for the Big E event.

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Sheryl Becker

Sheryl Becker

wrote on 1/13/2021 at 9:44:48 AM

Thank you, Ryan! Here are our pictures -

Here are petitions to sign & share too - < a href="">Petition update · An elephant has reportedly DIED at The Big E ·< /a>

< a href="">Free Elephant Minnie from the Commerford Zoo to a Sanctuary (< /a>

Please urge The Big E to no longer include wild animals and urge your legislators to support a ban on traveling exhibits/shows with wild animals. Thank you!

K. Jett

K. Jett

wrote on 1/13/2021 at 12:57:27 PM

Thank you so much for this article!  Animal are not made to be entertainment for us.  This is such a cruel industry and needs to end now.  Beulah’s death should be a wakeup call to the suffering these elephants endure and should bring an end to any wild animals being brought to the Big E.  Nationally, please contact your Congress members and urge them to support the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA), to prohibit the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling performances. < a href="">< /a>

Karen S Belanger

Karen S Belanger

wrote on 1/13/2021 at 4:53:16 PM

Thank you shedding light on the work that is being done to end animal abuse. The more people that know about it the better chance to end it.

Wendy Hollis

Wendy Hollis

wrote on 1/14/2021 at 11:40:32 AM

Thank you very much, Ryan, for your thoughtful and thorough article. Raising awareness is such an important part of animal advocacy. Articles like this highlight the  need for change in how animals are treated in our society.