Animal Rights Activist Organization Claims Animal-Themed Amusement Park Rides “Promote the Abuse of Animals”

Ashley Gillett

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is caught in a merry-go-round of controversy for taking a stand against animal-themed carousels at carnivals and playgrounds.

On February 6, PETA published a press release revealing that they had sent a letter to Aaron Landrum, president and CEO of Chance Rides, asking the manufacturer to cease the production and sales of animal-themed rides. Chance Rides is the biggest manufacturer of amusement park rides in the United States.

PETA argues the rides “normalize the use of animals as conveyances and amusements,” and the organization is now demanding the company change their designs from horses, camels, and elephants to cars, spaceships, bulldozers, and “other vehicles or more whimsical designs, like shooting stars, rainbows, or brooms.” 

In the letter, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk writes: “Times change, and our understanding of animals has greatly evolved over the past few decades. Animal-themed carousels unintentionally celebrate the exploitation of sentient beings.” 

She goes on to say, “Animal-themed carousel sets reinforce the notion that these sentient beings are simply here for our entertainment, rather than individuals with the same capacity to experience fear, pain, joy, and love as any of us.” 

Marissa Price, a PETA representative and campaign manager, appeared on a NewsNation segment recently, stating each year the organization receives thousands of complaints of cruelty to animals including horses, donkeys, camels, and elephants. “Whether they mean to or not, the carousel animal figures made by Chance Rides promote this abuse because they’re showing children, from a young age, that they can ride on animals.” 

But PETA’s newest campaign is being met with skepticism and mockery, as many label the demand unnecessary.

US Representative Jake LaTurner, currently serving for Kansas’ 2nd congressional district, slammed the organization’s campaign against animal-themed carnival rides as “absolutely ridiculous.” LaTurner also described PETA as “out of touch,” as reported by the Kansas Reflector.

“Extreme liberal activists have nothing better to do than attack small businesses and wage war on merry-go-rounds,” LaTurner said. 

PETA responded to LaTurner in a post on X, writing: “With all due respect to @RepLaTurner, PETA is all for amusement ride makers, but we want them to build exciting carousels that don’t normalize the use of animals. The last thing we are is anti-business—we just know the value of respectful depictions that make the rides more exciting & not exploitative. Times change—he should, too.” 

Similar reactions across the platform have shown little support for PETA’s newest mission. 

“With all due respect. No one rides a plastic horse on a pole and thinks they want to do this to a real horse. Stop with your goal to euthanizate 50% or more of the cats and dogs you take. That’s a better use of people’s time,” one user wrote.

Others said that while they typically support PETA’s efforts, the campaign was a step too far.

“I support your efforts to help animals but this is just a step too far stay in your lane and don’t lose credibility by advocating for ridiculous things like this,” user @RickLaBlue wrote.

Others still pointed out PETA’s questionable history of activism.

“PETA abuses more animals then any other organization that says the care about animals they’re just a bunch of hypocrites,” one user wrote, referring to the long-standing controversy surrounding PETA’s history of euthanizing animals.

In 2017, PETA settled a lawsuit for $49,000 after campaigners removed a pet Chihuahua belonging to a 9-year-old girl who was unattended outside the family’s home. They later euthanized the dog. The incident took place in Virginia and violated a law requiring a 5-day holding period between the time an animal is seized and euthanized. PETA was fined $500 for the violation. 

PETA claims the incident was a mistake, but many have criticized the organization for the high levels of euthanasia in their shelters.

According to a 2022 report from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA seized 2,886 animals and euthanized 2,130 of those animals, including 718 dogs and 1,374 cats, in 2022 alone. The remaining animals killed were classified as companion animals, livestock, and poultry. 

In the explanatory notes section of this report it states, “Of the cats euthanized, more than 81% were injured, ailing, and/or unwanted feral cats perceived as a nuisance by citizens referred to PETA by localities with no services for or intake of cats.” However, only 10 of the cats killed were classified as stray animals with 1,728 cats being surrendered by their owners. Just 15 cats were adopted out. 

Of the 1,088 dogs brought into PETA’s facility in 2022, 976 were surrendered by owners with just 7 dogs labeled as strays. 3 dogs were reclaimed by their owners, 43 were adopted out, and 316 were transferred to another facility. No explanation for the euthanization of the dogs is provided in this report.
According to PETA, euthanasia is a “good death” and putting an animal to sleep “is gentle, painless, quick, and dignified.” They also say it’s “sometimes the most humane thing that a shelter worker can do is give an unadopted or unadoptable animal a peaceful exit from a world that has betrayed them.”

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