An animal rights group says it is planning a protest Saturday against elephants rides being offered at this year’s Arizona Renaissance Festival, which opens that day., reports AZ Central.

The group Animal Defenders International claimed Thursday it believes an elephant supplied for this year’s Arizona Renaissance Festival was abused and urged the public not to support elephant rides at the festival, according to a statement from the organization for the media.

The group plans to hold a protest at Superstition Mountain Drive in Gold Canyon on Saturday, the festival’s opening day, at 10:30 a.m. The location is near U.S. 60, the route leading to the festival just east of Gold Canyon.

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The rides spin during the Arizona Renaissance Festival 2018 on February 17, 2018 in Gold Canyon, Ariz. (Photo: AZ Central/Patrick Breen/The Republic)

The medieval-themed festival offers costumed performers, rides, games, artisans, food, and the latest addition, escape rooms.

ADI says its mission is to expose animal mistreatment in the entertainment industry, promotes the advancement of scientific methods to replace the use of animals in research, and supports legal protection for animals.

ADI President Jan Creamer is urging Arizona Renaissance Festival goers to avoid supporting elephant rides at the festival, so as to “not endorse such behavior.”  

“We are appealing to the public not to pay to ride abused elephants,” Creamer said.  “Paying for the rides pays for this appalling and unacceptable cruelty. We believe that once people see how these animals suffer behind the scenes, they will … hope that event organizers will take a responsible position and end the rides.”

The group is not protesting against the festival itself.

ADI urged the Arizona Renaissance Festival to cancel the elephant rides at this year’s festival and all future events. The company has posted footage on social media it says show animals being abused by a trainer.

Jeffrey Siegel, a producer of the Arizona Renaissance Festival, disagreed with claims made by ADI:

“I personally have attended USDA inspections,” Siegel said. “I’ve been told the animals are in good care and in good health.”  

Siegel also added that the elephants, having been involved in the festival for 31 years, were raised since their infancy in human care and are “cared for, loved and respected.”

“I think [ADI] deservedly wants to protect elephants in the world and planet,” Siegel said. “I have not seen any issues of abuse here. The vast majority of the audience tells us that they appreciate having the opportunity to have the interaction with the animals.”

Source : AZ Central