July 17, 2012 > Ohlone Humane Society: Jungle George - unfair fare: Raccoon on a Stick, anyone?
Ohlone Humane Society: Jungle George - unfair fare: Raccoon on a Stick, anyone?
By Eric Mills, OHS Community Relations Director
The Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton closed July 8. I attended opening day on June 20, and had a grand old time (accent on the "old"). And that's part of the fair's appeal: you pretty much know what to expect from one year to the next: farmed animals, 4-H clubs, horse racing, fruit and vegetable displays, handcrafts, painting and photography, etc. And, of course, unhealthful foods of unimaginable variety, most of them deep-fried. In addition, the fair hosts music concerts and the slightly seedy attractions of the midway and its neon-lit rides with screaming kids (and adults, too), especially magical at night.
But for me, the best news was the fact that, unlike last year, exotic foods vendor "Jungle George" (based in Livermore) was not present to purvey his repugnant (and cruel) wares: "Raccoon on a Stick," "Beaver on a Stick," "Python on a Stick," bear, yak, fried crickets and scorpions, "Chocolate-covered Cockroaches," and my personal favorite, "Grilled Cheese Maggot Sandwiches." Chez Panisse's Alice Waters would have had a heart attack. Reportedly, "Jungle George" used to feature African lion meat, until PETA got on his case.
It's hard to believe that local public health authorities would approve these items for human consumption. Raccoons are notorious carriers of rabies, distemper and roundworms. Bon appetit.
But from an animal welfare point of view, I was more disturbed by the fact that wildlife was being turned into novelty items for a bunch of would-be macho types to impress their girlfriends. I called the FDA (who approved this fare) to find out the source of the raccoon and beaver meat, hoping against hope that it came from road kill. No such luck. "Nope, it's from out-of-state fur farms," I was told.
Fur farms are illegal in California, and for good reason. They are horrendously cruel, not unlike battery cages for egg-laying hens. The raccoons and beavers are confined in tiny wire cages their entire short lives, generally at the mercy of the elements, and driven either neurotic or insane by their living conditions, until their untimely demise, either by gassing, electrocution, or having their necks broken. And for what? A completely unnecessary luxury item: fur coats.
So if fur farms are illegal in California, it seems highly inappropriate that we should then be offering the by-products at our state and county fairs, no? Plus the risks to public health. (NOTE: "Jungle George" was also a vendor at last year's California State Fair in Sacramento. He is not being invited back to this year's fair for various reasons. The State Fair opened July 12 and runs through July 29)
Here's hoping that "Jungle George" will NOT be allowed to sell or give away any such products at future Alameda County Fairs or anywhere else in the state or country. The public is urged to contact the Alameda County Fairgrounds to express their concerns (see contact info below).
Animal Nursery Update - But the best news to report from the Pleasanton fair was their commendable Animal Nursery, in stark contrast to the brutal display at our State Fair in Sacramento. When I saw the exhibit on opening day, it featured a single pregnant sow in a spacious 10' x 20' pen, in deep sawdust. There was a slotted partition which fit across one corner of the pen, allowing the piglets to come and go at will, attracted by a heat lamp, and safe from being lain on by the sow... a truly humane display. I complimented the young woman in charge of the area, a former 4-H member, upon the humaneness of the exhibit. She told me that the sow was due to give birth the very next day.
When I described the farrowing crates at the State Fair, she told me she believed the crates to be inhumane. Indeed, someone had suggested that the Alameda County Fair exhibit have farrowing crates on display, too. She refused, out of concern for the animals' welfare. It should also be noted that the Pleasanton fair featured a display with a cow and young calf, again in a pen in deep sawdust. Kudos for that! At the State Fair, cows and their newborn calves are separated at birth, stressing all concerned. We can/must do better by these animals.
The State Fair folks should follow Alameda County's lead. In the nursery exhibit in Sacramento, pregnant sows are imprisoned in metal-barred "farrowing" crates, barely able to move, for three straight weeks, and forced to give birth on a metal grid. Do this to a dog and go to jail. What's the difference, pray?
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP - Please contact the Alameda County and California State Fairs to express your concerns about these humane issues. Thank Mr. Pickering for Alameda County's humane Animal Nursery display. Ask that the "farrowing" crates be banned, and that exotic food vendors such as "Jungle George" not be allowed to sell such unsavory products at our State and County fairs in the future.
Write/call: Norbert Bartosik, CEO & General Manager, CalEXPO, 2600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95815; tel. 916/263-3010; email - email@example.com. As noted, the State Fair runs July 12-29. There'll be a "Mexican Extravaganza" on the 29th featuring six bull rides, yet another concern.
Rick Pickering, CEO, Alameda County Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton Avenue, Pleasanton, CA 94566; tel. 925/426-7600; email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for caring.