Animal rights activists to picket S.D. County Fair because of el - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Animal rights activists to picket S.D. County Fair because of elephant rides

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Animal rights activists were to picket the San Diego County Fair Sunday because a Riverside County company is offering elephant rides inside the Del Mar event.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animal Defenders International are attacking the company -- Have Trunk Will Travel -- over its treatment of their animals. The activists have recently released video that purports to show beatings, elephants being hooked with bull hooks and electric shocks being administered.

The elephant owners say the tapes were deceitfully edited.

The activists "will be at the fair today educating people on HTWT's training methods, which HTWT has never denied," said ADI's public relations representative, Agnes Huff, in a statement.

ADI claims that the video has been culled because the original footage is extensive and long. ADI runs a national campaign to protest the use of wild or exotic animals in circus or performance settings in general, but they are focusing on HTWT today due to the nature of this video, Huff said.

But the elephants' co-owner, Kari Johnson, said the activists "cut the film to take everything out of context and make it look far worse.

"We saw the video footage and agree that it looks terrible," said Johnson, who owns the company in question with her husband. "It is our people and our elephants in the footage, but it is selectively edited and out of order.

"That's their job" Johnson said. "They take things out of context and edit it. They don't think animals should be under human care at all,"

Johnson said PETA "has protested us for years. Anything I say to defend my elephants will turn into just a `he said/she said' thing."

Johnson and her husband Gary are longtime caretakers of elephants and heavily invested in their own form of animal activism. "My husband Gary is one of the founders of the National Elephant Foundation, founded in 1998. We work with the Elephant Manager's Association.

She said her company has state Fish and Game permits, and it has been regularly inspected in surprise visits. "But PETA doesn't know anything about the treatment of elephants; they just don't want animals in the hands of people at all."

The activists were not available by phone Sunday to respond to the elephant owner's retort.

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