CWSF board to take a hard look at tiger exhibit
By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD – The Central Wisconsin State Fair (CSWF) board will take a hard look at the scheduled white tiger exhibit when they reconvene on July 29.
White Tiger Discovery Zoological Exhibit, based in Chicago, IL, is set to bring their white tiger display to Marshfield for all six days of the Central Wisconsin State Fair, Aug. 20-25.
The exhibit recently raised concerns among Marshfield aldermen. With unanimous support from the Marshfield council, fair board member, Chris Jockheck, was asked to get the issue placed on the agenda for the July 15 CWSF board meeting.
During the July 15 meeting, community members and visitors were given three minutes to address the board, after board president, Peggy Sue Meyer-Miller issued a statement of her own.
“I have heard individual and group concerns on the White Tiger exhibit coming to this year’s fair, but we have also heard many community members expressing excitement on the exhibit coming to the fair,” Meyer-Miller said during her statement. “We respect that individuals might be passionate about their beliefs and concerns about the exhibit, but don’t the individuals who want to see the exhibit deserve the same respect.”
About a half dozen individuals spoke against the exhibit coming to the fair, including two alderman and Megan Nicholson, Wisconsin State Director for the Humane Society.
“The display of wild and exotic animals is at odds with the purpose of state and county fairs, which are intended to highlight and promote agriculture and agricultural activities,” she said. “Displaying tigers or other wild animals at a state fair is detrimental to animal welfare, presents a public safety risk, and serves no conservation purpose. Most wild animal exhibitors have abysmal records of animal care and that is certainly the case with All Things Wild.”
When fair board discussion turned to the tiger exhibit, CWSF executive director Dale Christiansen said that the board has received both positive and negative feedback regarding the exhibit and that he has talked to fairs that have hosted the exhibit, as well as those that want to have it in the future.
“As we do our research on studies of the organization, none of us are able to turn up a whole lot of negative on the group that is doing it since 2012 and the transfer of ownership,” he said.
Alderman Chris Jockheck made a motion to cancel the exhibit, citing negative comments made that evening, along with emails that he has received.
“We have heard the testimony tonight,” Jockheck said. “This is not educational, this really isn’t. There aren’t any white tigers in nature. This isn’t educational; it’s not an honest educational, that is for sure. The condition of the animals has been called into question repeatedly, going back 10-12 years.”
Christiansen defended his choice, “I did not make this decision out of the blue. I thought it would be a good addition to our fair. It came to us at no cost. We are in a position this year with cut budgets and slashing entertainment and everything. When I couldn’t find an act that I felt would add value to our venue, and I did not have to pay for it.
“Everything that I could find, that the animals were cared (for). The animals that I saw that were exhibited were in great condition, as healthy as could be. I just thought it was a good decision and would be a good addition for our fair. I did not anticipate the backlash that we are getting, because of it.
“There is one thing that concerns me – it is easy enough for us to cancel the white tigers and let’s end this exhibit, but we are in an ag community… We can cancel the white tigers. Is it the pigs next year? Is it the beef next year?…I’m torn with this; I’m understanding both sides. To defend my position, I thought this would be a good addition.”
The board ultimately decided to table the matter and come back to discuss it in two weeks. This will give the board ample time to gather more information on insurance matters, treatment of the animals, and other items brought up as concerns.
The board will meet again on July 29 at 7 p.m. at the Marshfield Fairgrounds.