The state and county fair season is in full swing, and the times they are a-changin'. Segway rides are replacing tired old pony rides, hands-on clean power demonstrations have taken over petting zoos and people are waiting to ride a vegetable oilpowered car instead of an elephant. Cruel animal displays are making way for fresh and innovative exhibits that appeal to a generation that cares about animals and our planet.
Mobile solar panels, hybrid water heating systems and wind-powered generators are drawing tens of thousands of fair visitors who leave entertained, informed and empowered. This year's Green Long Beach Festival showcased an art project with 23,000 water bottles representing the wild dolphins who are killed for food in Japan each year. The Spring Green Expo in downtown Los Angeles featured student-designed sustainability projects and panels on organic gardening. Similar "green" fairs are sprouting up all over the country.
Yet some fair organizers--refusing to accept that times and sensibilities have evolved--continue to fall back on stale old midway displays such as tiger cub photo booths, pig races and goldfish ping-pong games. And for these ill, exhausted and dispirited animals, the shift to the 21st century can't come quickly enough.
Animals used on the fair circuit are hauled from one location to the next in transport cages in which they can barely move. Hot, fetid and cramped, these trucks can become their coffins. It's cost-prohibitive to hire an on-site veterinarian, so sick or injured animals may go unnoticed and untreated.