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The 17 Day Big E Protests 2023

Sep 22, 2023

Today is National Elephant Appreciation Day and we are remembering the elephants who have given their lives to the animal entertainment industry, one of whom, Beulah, died here in Massachusetts while performing in 2019 at the Big E in West Springfield.

The 17-day Big E(xploitation of Animals) is back this year with animals in entertainment, but fewer this year! The fair runs from September 15-October 1, and this is the second year in a row that The Big E has had no wild animals, and Camel Kingdom has not returned! But Commerford Petting Zoo is back with many animals and camel and pony rides (Camels are not “wild” according to the USDA). Camels and ponies are forced to work 12 hours a day, are very poorly cared for, and the ponies’ heads are chained to the revolving wheel. They trudge for hours in a circle and can barely move their heads.

Commerford has over 50 Animal Welfare Act violations and allowed for Beulah, a sick elephant, to be at The Big E in 2019 for pictures, leading to her death there on day three  after collapsing three times. She received no veterinary care and was left to die. They also still own another elderly elephant, Minnie, whom the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary has offered to take—at no cost to Commerford–but Commerford refuses to release her.

Disturbing footage of Minnie looking sickly and limping and of one of their exhausted camels in distress, unable to stand and being forcefully yanked by the neck went viral in 2018. PETA got involved in that campaign, too. That footage sparked nationwide outrage, and our protests received news coverage from media outlets throughout New England. We must keep telling The Big E that Commerford Petting Zoo is not welcome back to The Big E!

Western Mass. Animal Rights Advocates (WMARA) has been making progress at The Big E each year since 2019, the year of Beulah’s death. WMARA is still protesting the petting zoo, camel and pony rides, performing horses and dogs in the circus, and pig racing at The Big E every weekend of the fair. “Our hard work is definitely paying off! We must continue on this successful path until there are NO animals in entertainment at The Big E,” states Sheryl Becker, President of Western Mass. Animal Rights Advocates. You can help!

Ways to take action:

1. WRITE THE BIG E thanking them for not having wild animals and Camel Kingdom this year and urging them to remove ALL animals in entertainment. The CEO stated after Beulah’s death that he wants to have elephants back, so we must do all we can to keep that from occurring. Last year they broke a new attendance record, and it was the first year without any wild animals, clearly showing that they do not need wild animal acts to bring in visitors! Email Eugene Cassidy at and to The Big E at!

Politely remind them of Commerford Petting Zoo’s horrendous record of more than 50 Animal Welfare Act violations, and of course, Beulah’s tragic death on site. Urge them to stop permitting Commerford’s inhumane camel and pony rides, too.

2. HELP KEEP WILD ANIMALS OUT OF THE BIG E BY CONTACTING YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS about S.2189/2197/H.3245: An Act relative to the use of elephants, big cats, primates, giraffes, and bears in traveling exhibits and shows ( Urge your state legislators to co-sponsor this bill! We suggest mentioning Beulah’s death at The Big E in 2019 and the viral video of Minnie looking sickly and limping in 2018. It is also important to note The Big E CEO’s statement right after Beulah’s death that he wants to have elephants back. Find your state legislators and their contact information here.

3. Join a protest! See here for details on Facebook.

4. Spread the word! Share the event page and urge others to take action too!

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