People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, has opened a booth at the California State Fair for the fist time.
The animal activist groups says it wants to educate people about what goes on behind the scenes of the dairy industry.
It may seem like an odd strategy since thousands of livestock exhibitors including 4-H and Future Farmer’s of America participants use the fair as a showcase for raising animals for food.
The organization welcomes the controversy. It has operated similar booths at the Utah, Colorado and Iowa state fairs outlining the acts of cruelty in the beef industry with mixed results. California is one of the nation’s largest milk producers.
Some visitors to the booth thought it was a good idea.
“I think it’s really good they’re here, I think it’s very important to show the other side,” said Susanne Lecce who sympathizes with PETA’s cause.
To compete with nearby booths that sell barbecue pork, cowhide and cowhide products and live monkeys, the PETA booth has a large sign advertising “free stuff” and the viewing of a “secret” video. Spinning their Wheel of Torture can win you a prize, and the video shows the bloody de-horning of dairy cattle.
PETA supporter Lady Jimenez had to hide her eyes during some sequences.
“A lot of people just drink milk or eat meat but they don’t know all this cruelty that’s going on,”said Jimenz.
PETA Campaigner Matt Bruce says there are all kinds of remedies for what he says are cruel practices by the dairy industry, but he says PETA’s ultimate goal is the ultimate solution.
“We feel that the best way to help animals is to simply stop eating them and go vegan today,” said Bruce.
Those who make their living raising livestock don’t begrudge PETA’s presence at the fair.
“Animal care is the top priority for livestock producers. Our animals are our livelihoods, so we take into consideration how we treat them,” said Malorie Bankhead, a former Beef Ambassador who was raised on a farm.
Bankhead said they they are proud of what they do in raising animals for slaughter or for producing food efficiently. She said consumers should research how their food is produced.
“PETA and other animal rights groups might be on the fairgrounds and you can most definitely listen to them, but we as American farmers and ranchers have a story to tell too,” said Bankhead.
She said de-horning is necessary for the safety of the cattle and of those who work with them and is done with the least amount of pain as possible. That goes for other practices that may appear cruel to those not familiar with farm practices.
“We take pride in doing it the right way that’s most humane for the animals,” said Bankhead.
The livestock barns were crowded with fair goers on the first day of the fair. Many appeared to be urban dwellers curious to see the farm animals that are competing in the show arena.