COSTA MESA — After four years of protests against alleged animal cruelty at the Orange County Fair's rodeo, a Costa Mesa-based animal rights group announced Friday that an agreement with fair officials had been reached and that its members would not demonstrate this year.
"This is a fair agreement for everyone," said Ava Park, founder of the 1,500-member Orange County People for Animals, the county's largest animal rights group.
Fair officials said they sought the agreement after last year's animal rights protest disrupted two fair events. They denied the group's claims of animal cruelty.
Park said the group agreed not to demonstrate this year in exchange for being allowed to set up a table at the fair and distribute uncensored literature, including photographs that show alleged acts of cruelty to rodeo animals.
The People for Animals table is in front of the Coors Arena, which is the rodeo venue. Park said that animal rights activists will be at the booth offering information prior to the rodeo events at 4 and 8 p.m. today and 4 p.m. Sunday, which is the fair's last day.
The effort will include a petition drive to stop future rodeos at the fair and a photographic montage of acts of cruelty that allegedly occurred during the rodeo. The photographs depict a bloodied steer that lost a horn, a calf with its neck twisted violently during a calf-roping event and use of "hot shots," or electrical prods, on livestock.
"You have to imagine steers being stopped in midair after running 25 miles per hour," Park said of the roping events.
She said that fair officials interested in an agreement contacted her two months ago. "We initially suggested that they discontinue the rodeo altogether," Park said. "But they didn't go for that idea. Our second request was for a space wherever we wanted at the fair."
Fair officials hope the same arrangement of an informational approach will work for future fair dates, said Jill Lloyd, the fair's media spokeswoman.
"Last year their demonstration was more disruptive than normal, and it occurred during our closing centennial, and then they went over to the rodeo," said Lloyd.
This year fair officials wanted to sit down and talk with the group, she said.
"We told them that although we don't agree with your platform, we can at least agree on a more sedate presentation," Lloyd said. "And also because we have a lot of families attending the fair, and we want it to be as comfortable an experience as possible."
In the past, the group has distributed leaflets alleging rodeo cruelty and has spoken to children about livestock cruelty.
There are about 10 million animal rights activists in the United States, Park said. "With the agreement, now their rights and concerns are being represented," she said.