SAN DIEGO -- A rock icon sent a letter urging the San Diego County Fair to stop offering elephant rides after video portraying animal abuse was released, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Sunday.
Entertainer Joan Jett, set to perform at the Del Mar fair event on June 30, requested that the organizers remove the ride from its event, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA and Animal Defenders International picketed the fair Sunday because they were protesting a Riverside County company -- Have Trunk Will Travel -- over its treatment of animals. The activists recently released video that purports to show trainers beating and shocking elephants and hooking them with bull hooks.
The owners of the company say the tapes were deceitfully edited.
The activists "will be at the fair Sunday educating people on HTWT's training methods, which HTWT has never denied,'' said ADI's public relations representative, Agnes Huff, in a statement.
ADI claims that the video has been culled because the original footage is extensive and long. "HTWT is trying to kill the messenger. The video speaks for itself," said Matt Rossell of ADI.
"At one point in the video, one of the trainers actually looks at our camera guy and says, 'Don't you get pictures of me hooking on them,' referring to the use of bull hooks. This treatment is typical, but unacceptable," Rossellsaid.
"This video was part of a wider project which was ongoing. However, after hearing the repeated assertions from Have Trunk Will Travel that they only use positive reinforcement, love and marshmallows to train elephants, we realized that we had to get the truth out," wrote Matt Rossell with Animal Defenders International in a statement.
But the elephants' co-owner, Kari Johnson, said the activists "cut the film to take everything out of context and make it look far worse."
"We saw the video footage and agree that it looks terrible," said Johnson, who owns the company in question with her husband. "It is our people and our elephants in the footage, but it is selectively edited and out of order."
"That's their job," Johnson said. "They take things out of context and edit it. They don't think animals should be under human care at all," Johnson said PETA "has protested us for years. Anything I say to defend my elephants will turn into just a "he said/she said' thing."
Rosell said one of HTWT's elephants, Tai, was featured in the new film "Water for Elephants," starring as Rosie, an abused circus animal in the 1930s. "Tai is seen in the video getting beaten by bull hooks." Johnson said she and her husband have been elephant caretakers for other 30 years and heavily invested in their own form of animal activism. "My husband Gary is one of the founders of the National Elephant Foundation, founded in 1998. We work with the Elephant Manager's Association."
She said her company has state Fish and Game permits, and it has been regularly inspected in surprise visits. "But PETA doesn't know anything about the treatment of elephants. They just don't want animals in the hands of people at all."
A spokesperson for the San Diego County Fair tells Fox 5 News they are looking into the allegations but have never had any problems with Have Trunk Will Travel. She said they've employed the company for nearly three decades.
The fair said it plans to continue giving rides despite being asked by Jett to stop.