Games, rides, and contests that use animals are anything but "fun and games" for the unwilling animal participants. These cruel events are often part of fundraisers and fairs. The animals are carted from town to town, and they live in a state of discomfort, frustration, depression, and anxiety. Exhibitors rarely take the time to rest and exercise these animals, and sick and injured animals often go without veterinary care.
Tethered tightly to turnstiles and forced to plod in endless circles, ponies can suffer from hoof ailments and are often left sore and chafed from ill-fitting equipment. Equines are specifically excluded from protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act, and if local or state authorities fail to intervene, the outcome can be deadly.
During cruel donkey basketball games, which some schools hold as fundraisers, players ride donkeys who are dragged, kicked, shoved, shouted at, punched, and jerked around by participants who have no animal-handling experience. In order to keep them from having "accidents" on the court, donkeys are often deprived of food and water for hours before games.
Mistreating donkeys for entertainment also sends young people the dangerous message that it is acceptable to abuse and humiliate those who are weaker than they are. Experts Stephen R. Kellert and Dr. Alan R. Felthous, authors of the journal article "Childhood Cruelty Toward Animals Among Criminals and Noncriminals," wrote, "The evolution of a more gentle and benign relationship in human society might be enhanced by our promotion of a more positive and nurturing ethic between children and animals."
The fate of goldfish, rabbits, chicks, lizards, and other animals who are given away as prizes or as promotional gimmicks at ping-pong booths, ring-toss booths, and other game areas is often grim. Reports of dead and dying animals being tossed into garbage cans near these booths pour into PETA's office every year. Booth operators view the animals as expendable commodities, and deaths resulting from inadequate handling and care are written off as a small cost of doing business.
Those who "win" animals are provided little or no instruction about the care of the species handed over to them, so animals who manage to survive often subsequently die because of improper care. Many animals are discarded when the novelty wears off or when the family tires of caring for them. Many are set free outdoors to fend for themselves—these animals often starve to death, succumb to harsh climates, or are attacked and killed by predators.
Pigs, who are highly intelligent and sensitive animals, endure mishandling, noise from crowds, and blaring music during these contests. Some of the pigs used in contests are young and still developing. The pigs are often hauled across the country in badly constructed or poorly maintained enclosures and are treated as if they were nothing more than toys. Spectators at these events, especially children, often do not know that most of the pigs are sold for slaughter at the end of each season.
Life on the road for elephants and camels used for rides bears no resemblance to a natural existence. Stuffed into cramped, unventilated trucks and trailers and dragged to fairgrounds and other venues across the country, these intelligent animals are forced to endure endless hours of plodding in circles while carrying patrons on their back.
At ranches and stables, horses and mules who are "rented" to people for trail rides and treks are considered expendable commodities—the animals are often neglected, and many suffer permanent injuries.
The constant confinement and forced labor that these horses and mules endure is both physically and psychologically harmful to them. They suffer from exposure to heat and humidity and are continually forced to carry heavy loads. Many also suffer from untreated foot ailments as a result of being forced to climb on rocky or uneven surfaces, and it is common for these animals to be sold for slaughter in lieu of being given treatment.
With a valid credit card, almost anyone, no matter how inexperienced, can be put in control of these large and potentially dangerous animals. Rough paths and impassable crossings put both humans and horses at risk. Many horses and mules who are rented for rides become startled or are improperly handled while on the trail—as a result, many have been injured and some have died after bolting or falling.
The best way to help animals who are exploited for entertainment is to avoid these attractions and urge everyone you know to do the same. If you see cruelty to animals at any state or county fair or other event, don't hesitate to take action. Anyone can file a complaint and ask for a humane officer to come check on an animal.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.