Animal rights group seeks booth at Nebraska fair

Farm Forum

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) – An animal rights organization wants to take its campaign to the Nebraska State Fair, where exhibitors and fairgoers celebrate the state’s rich traditions of agriculture, livestock farming and ranching.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has applied for a booth at this year’s fair, which runs Aug. 23-Sept. 2 in Grand Island.

PETA trips to state fairs in Iowa and elsewhere last year reflected a strategy for trying to guide consumers away from meat and decrying what PETA members view as often deplorable exploitations of farm animals.

Nebraska fair executive director Joseph McDermott said PETA has a First Amendment right to come to the fair and spread its message.

“We at the Nebraska State Fair have a responsibility to make sure the fair remains a family friendly environment,” McDermott said. “So once it’s determined they will be at the fair, we will work with them to ensure that it does remain a family friendly environment.”

Fair officials and PETA representatives have been discussing references, insurance and other details.

PETA officials said the group’s booth and efforts were well-received at last summer’s Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, saying several farmers walked up to politely discuss their disagreement with the group’s message.

“People were shocked to find out that workers kicked, beat and even sexually abused farm animals on factory farms,” Arth said.

PETA did close down its booth for a couple of days because of a dispute over profanity in a 13-minute video it was showing. But a compromise was reached with fair officials in which the video’s audio remained uncensored, but the profanity was removed from the subtitles.

PETA shouldn’t expect a warm welcome in Grand Island, said Larry Sitzman, executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers and speaking on behalf of the five Nebraska livestock and poultry organizations aligned as We Support Agriculture.

“As a joint farm organization, we obviously don’t share anything in common with that group,” Sitzman said, “which puts us in the camp of the vast majority of Nebraskans.”

PETA has applied for an outdoor booth that Nebraska fair executive director McDermott said would cost $500 to $600.

“We do have space available, but it is limited space,” McDermott said.

But if the group provides the information the fair requested, he said, “I would expect to see them at the fair this year.”