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Big Cats and Their Litter Boxes Return to the Champlain Valley Fair 

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Once again we're approaching Champlain Valley Fair season: the tilt-a-whirl, fried dough, Justin Bieber, and a variety of other nausea-inducing sounds, smells and sensations. And, yet again, the fair is keeping up its annual tradition of inviting controversy with this year's return of the "Nerger Tiger and Lion Show."

Don't remember the Nergers? Check out this Blurt post from August 2009, when Chittenden County animal-rights activists successfully lobbied the Price Chopper supermarket chain to yank its sponsorship of the big kitty show, because its parent company, the Hawthorn Corporation, isn't nearly as soft and cuddly as the tiger cubs it exhibits. (No word yet as to who's sponsoring the cat show this year.)

Both PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — and HSUS — the Humane Society of the United States — have followed the Hawthorn bandwagon for years, especially its abuses of the federal Animal Welfare Act. According to PETA, Hawthorn has a rap sheet dating back to a 1978 incident when an elephant with the Shrine Circus picked up her handler and killed her. And, as anyone who understands animal behavior will tell you, elephants don't go apeshit like that just because they're having a bad hair day.

And in March 2004, according to HSUS, Hawthorn was forced to surrender 16 elephants and pay a $200,000 fine for Animal Welfare Act violations.

File photo: Stephen Mease

Ordinarily, Gary Kowalski, formerly the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, leads the charge against live-animal shows in Chittenden County. This year, however, Rev. Kowalski is serving as an interim minister for a UU congregation in Santa Fe, N.M. 

Nevertheless, before his departure, the good reverend posted some additional info about the Nerger show on the website,, including a link to last year's (now-closed) petition to ban all circus-animal acts from the Champlain Valley Fair. Interestingly, the petition, "Ban Circus Animals at Champlain Valley Fair," garnered 395 signatures from such exotic locales as Argentina, Poland, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Who'd a thought the fair has such a wide draw? No wonder parking is such a bitch...

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.


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