UPLAND - Elephant rides will not be part of this year's Upland Lemon Festival.

Fairplex, which will run the April festival for the first time, has decided not to contract with Perris-based group Have Trunk Will Travel, Inc., which has animal- rights activists in Upland and Los Angeles pleased.

"We really feel like this main decision will be well received by Upland residents and festival-goers as well," said Matt Rossell, campaigns director for Los Angeles-based animal-rights group Animal Defenders International.

But, Leslie Galerne-Smith, public relations/communications manager for Fairplex, said the reason Have Trunk Will Travel will not be at the festival and was not contracted for last year's L.A. County Fair was due to changes in programming.

"What it came down to was, was it a fit programming-wise?" she said. "We have some other great things going on we didn't think elephants would be a necessary component."

The city was in charge of the festival last year, but has contracted out to Fairplex to take over the festival.

Have Trunk Will Travel has offered elephant rides at the festival off and on over the years.

There were no plans to offer rides this year, said Kari Johnson, co-founder of Have Trunk Will Travel.

"It is common for animal-rights extremist groups to send out press releases for nonevents to get attention," she said.

"They did the same thing the year we opted not to go to the L.A. County Fair."

Representatives from Animal Defenders International and some Upland-based animal advocates have attended council meeting and spoke with city officials asking them to not permit the use of elephants at the festival.

Animal Defenders International conducted an eight-week investigation in 2005 at Have Trunk Will Travel. They collected 10 hours of video, which was released prior to the release of the movie "Water For Elephants."

One of the elephants in the movie is owned by Have Trunk Will Travel.

The video shows elephants being shocked, hit and prodded with bull hooks - all for the sake of performing tricks.

"We look at the issue of animals in entertainment from a very broad perspective," Rossell said. "We rely on not just one investigation but multiple investigations that are ongoing to show a real systemic problem that's apparent throughout the industry."

The group has been showing the videos to event planners who contract with Have Trunk Will Travel, including the L.A. County Fair Association Board, which decided not to include elephant rides during last year's fair.

Fair officials said it also was a programming decision.

Claremont resident Harold Norheim become involved with Animal Defenders International's efforts to stop the use of elephants in entertainment after seeing Upland resident Heather Clare standing next to the elephant rides holding a sign in protest. Clark was confronted by a fair volunteer while protesting.

"I've always had attachment to elephants, so when I saw this it just hit me that it took a lot of strength for Heather to stand there by herself and that was kind of like a turning point for me," he said. "That's when I decided that I'm going to get involved and try to do something about companies like this."

Norheim said elephants kept in captivity end up with health problems or die because they do not receive the exercise or freedom they're used to in the wild.

"People just don't realize the amount of suffering that these animals go through," he said.

"These companies like Have Trunk Will Travel and Ringling Bros. - these animals to them are just a means of making a profit, and they really don't care anything about the animals other than that."


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