It’s extremely disappointing to learn that the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair will be featuring Barry DeVoll’s exploitative animal attraction entitled Racing Lemurs and the Winner’s Circle Lemur Encounter this week. The act calls itself educational, yet when I visited this same attraction at the Barnstable County Fair last month, the public was being fed inaccurate information about the animals in the exhibit (such as the repeated assertion that lemurs are monkeys, which they are not). Lemurs in their “habitat” were performing abnormal repetitive behaviors, indicating distress and an inappropriate environment. This is not a surprise, given that lemurs are wild, undomesticated animals that do not have what it takes to cope with a crowded, carnival-like atmosphere. Yet this behavior was ignored by the presenter, passed over to the public as though it were normal. I watched as children giggled and imitated the distressed behavior. Just what are these children being taught?
Publicly available APHIS reports show that Mr. DeVoll was cited just last year on several counts that put both the public and the animals in his care in danger. Inspectors have subsequently been satisfied that these issues have been addressed; but can we trust that a man who would keep a sugar glider for up to six hours a day, under a stage, in an unventilated ”plastic tote” really has a handle on how to take the best possible care of his animals?
I tried to join in the discussion about this issue on the fair’s Facebook page — including posting a link to the footage that I took at the fair in Barnstable, showing clearly just how bad this exhibit is from an animal welfare standpoint. Within 24 hours all of my (polite and fact-based) comments and posts had been deleted, and I had been blocked from posting further. This seems odd, given that the fair themselves had opened the discussion on their page.
For those of you who visit this exhibit at the fair, please understand that what you are seeing is a group of animals that are in great distress, whose innate needs (those other than the very basics required by legislation: food and water) are not being met. Remember that the presenters don’t even have some of the basic facts about these animals straight. Bear in mind that the simple act of carting a group of endangered animals around the country and exposing them to highly stressful situations on a regular basis is not in any way, shape or form conservation. Better yet, tell all this to the people who have arranged for the act to go on, and ask them not to do it again!