Bay Area animal-rights activist Eric Mills has gathered 1,500 signatures in hopes of cowing the California State Fair into ceasing its practice of displaying live animal births.
Hoping to continue with live piglet and calf birth exhibits, State Fair officials have recruited experts to criticize Mills, the famed scourge of live animal sales in San Francisco's Chinatown.
"We are proud of having the opportunity to expose our urban patrons to the reality of the world of animals and the sources of our healthy food," fair manager Norbert Bartosik wrote in a public letter.
This debate between Mills -- who haunted the July State fair in Sacramento, collecting signatures and passing out leaflets -- reads like an eerie illumination of the carnivore's dilemma: Is there really an ethically sound way to produce and eat meat?
Society seems to have agreed that, as long as the animals' brief lives are spent in relative comfort and their deaths come unexpectedly and swiftly, it's all good.
To Mills' mind, these protocols are breached by the rough treatment brood sows and cows get at the State Fair.
According to a recent letter from Mills to his fellow animal rights activists:
This year the State Fair featured three cows and three sows, all in the last term of their pregnancy, and ready to give birth any day, all on public display before noisy crowds, under bright lights. Adding to the stress, there were nightly fireworks at 10 p.m., frightening pets miles away. One can only imagine how it affected the animals at the Fair. Did any abort as a result, one wonders?In response, the State Fair obtained a letter from Eric Davis, a UC Davis veterinarian who oversaw animal welfare during the Fair. The Fair birthing scene was so relaxed it only lacked for a team of New Age Doulas. "It is quite clear that Mr. Mills did
not spend much, if any, time actually viewing the exhibit. I was there nearly the entire three weeks, all day and all night. It is
my opinion that the animals received excellent care and were strikingly relaxed," he said.
What's more, Davis wrote, Mills would be better off sticking to his knitting -- or at least knitting prescribed by California State Fair overseers.
If Mr. Mills was really interested in solving a serious animal welfare issue, he would support initiatives, such as the one taken by UC, Davis's International Animal Welfare Training Institute which teaches police, fire, and other officials in how to handle loose livestock safely and humanely.Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly