Community is no place for animal entertainment


Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.

I was disgusted to hear the Alachua County Fair will be featuring a grizzly bear and an alligator show.

I did not realize this type of animal exploitation was still being supported in the United States, much less in Gainesvill. Parading large predators around as they "perform" is not a responsible form of entertainment, and disrespects the dignity of these wild creatures.

Unlike educational settings like zoos, museums and parks, a fair promotes and profits from the spectacle of the species, rather than educating visitors about the natural environment this animal should be living in and what its natural habitat is like. Additionally, disrespect for these animals will be passed seamlessly to children who visit the fair this year. I'm stunned and appalled that in 2012 our community permits this behavior.

I am a local metal artist working with blacksmithing and modern metalworking techniques to create large public sculptures. I often find inspiration for my art in the curious line that divides and unites the natural environment with our everyday lives.

I work to translate that mystery and wonder into sculptures that stand tall in public places, where people of all ages and interests can visit anytime. Gainesville is home to two of my large sculptures, "Cycle" and "The Giving Tree," found on the University of Florida campus and the the Senior Recreation Center, respectively. Each piece derives content from our relationship with the environment around us.

Gainesville has always been a town supportive of arts and culture, from the university community, to the residents of Alachua County, to local legislation supporting green spaces and public art.

This is the image our community holds and threatens to tarnish with entertainment like the grizzly bear and alligator acts featured at this year's Alachua County Fair.

I will offer the only gift I have to Alachua County. I will donate a full-scale metal sculpture of any chosen animal of prey to the county free of charge, so long as exploitative use of large wild animals is banned in our community.

This sculpture will be designed and created specifically to symbolize our community's commitment to the arts, culture, education and appreciation of our natural world and will act as an agreement between the county and its residents that we will no longer support irresponsible forms of animal entertainment.

Leslie Tharp,

Gainesville

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