Thank Price Chopper and Spank the Fair

Avatar BCR | August 30, 2009 1 View 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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Thanks to only 3 phone calls to a supermarket in Vermont, the grocery chain pulled their sponsorship from the Champlain Valley Exposition because of the tiger act they were including.  Please take the time to read about this, to write a thank you (see info below), to post a comment.  We simply have to reward these acts of courageousness on behalf of the animals if we want things to change.  Moral of the story – it only took THREE phone calls……


Thanks for your help!!!


Send thanks to:

Copy the fair organizers at:

Copy the reporter at:

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Copy of my email and original story below:


From: Julie Hanan [
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2009 3:16 PM
To: ''; ''
Cc: ''; ''; ''; ''
Subject: Champlain Valley Exposition


To:       Mona Golub, Price Chopper VP of Public Relations

            Reverend Gary Kowalski


Regarding your stand against wild animal displays at The Champlain Valley Exposition, I wanted to personally thank you for acting on behalf of those who can’t defend themselves.  I’m thrilled that you were able to see the bigger picture through the smoke and mirrors of the animal entertainment world.  You stood up to help expose the cruel reality of life for captive, performing wildlife in this country that so many refuse to acknowledge.  It’s an underworld that the few regulations and inspectors we have just cannot properly police.  Kudos to you for realizing how horrendous life is on the road, how they are bred over and over, and how they are dumped into the exotic animal pipeline – a business as lucrative as illegal guns and drugs. 


You are part of the progress being made.  To see a preview of what Animal Planet will be airing next season, click on  It shines a light onto what is happening in rural areas throughout this country.  Sadly, we now have 3 captive tigers for every 1 wild tiger left.  But laws and people’s attitudes (such as your own) are changing.  Dateline, Anderson Cooper, 20/20, and so many other news organizations are beginning to expose the reality of what is behind these animal displays and the lucrative money being made trading in exotics. 


After reading the following notorious background about the Hawthorn Corp., I’m sure you will feel even more justified in standing up as you have done.  Unfortunately, the Champlain Valley Exposition organizers didn’t realize the negative ramifications of their decision to endorse cruelty for profit. Times are changing and laws are certainly evolving (see attached documentation below).  It’s too bad Champlain’s organizers didn’t recognize that this was their opportunity to be leaders in this humane movement.  Thanks to your example, others surely will. You are part of a grass roots effort to speak for these abused animals – and you are true heroes to them and to me!  I will be singing your praises far and wide.



Julie Hanan

Lutz, Florida


Hawthorn Corporation (Cuneo, John)

USDA License #33-C-0053, I-10, 9819 N. Solon Rd., Richmond, IL 60071


Hawthorn Corporation has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Hawthorn has accumulated $272,500 in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) penalties and has twice had its license suspended. Four of Hawthorn’s elephants died from a human strain of tuberculosis. In January 1997, Hawthorn’s herd of 18 elephants was restricted from traveling during tuberculosis treatment. Hawthorn’s elephants have rampaged, causing death, injury, and property damage. In 2004, Hawthorn was ordered to relinquish custody of 16 elephants. The USDA has cited Hawthorn Corporation numerous times for failure to provide veterinary care, adequate shelter from the elements, and proper food and water as well as failure to handle animals in a manner that prevents trauma and harm and ensures public safety. Hawthorn leases tigers to facilities and circuses around the world, including Jordan World Circus, Circus Vargas, Shrine Circuses, Walker Bros. Circus, Royal Palace Circus, George Carden Circus, Hanneford Circus, Hamid Circus, Alain Zerbini Circus, and Tarzan Zerbini Circus.


April 4, 2009: The USDA cited Hawthorn Corporation for thawing meat for the tigers in direct sunlight for several

hours with exposure to flies. This method can contaminate the food and render it unsuitable for the animals.


March 2009: The head and pelt of a white tiger found in a milk crate by the side of the road near Hawthorn’s training

compound in Illinois were claimed by a man who intended to make a rug out of the body parts. The tiger had been

obtained from the Hawthorn Corporation.


August 13, 2008: The USDA cited Hawthorn Corporation for failure to provide adequate space to seven tigers who

had been housed in transport enclosures for almost two weeks. Three transport enclosures measuring approximately

6½ feet by 7½ feet by 4 feet high contained two adult tigers each, and another of the same size contained one tiger.

The USDA also noted that the incident involving a Hawthorn employee who had been bitten by a tiger was pending

further review.


August 5, 2008: According to the Chicago Tribune, a man practicing a circus act at the Hawthorn Corporation facility

was attacked by a tiger and sustained deep puncture wounds and several scratches to his upper body, neck, and

knee. The man was transported to the hospital by paramedics, who were told that the tiger had been beaten with

baseball bats in an effort to get the animal to release the victim. It was the second time the man had been attacked by

a tiger at the facility.


July 31, 2007: While Hawthorn Corporation was exhibiting at the Kerr County Fairgrounds in Texas, the USDA cited

Hawthorn for failure to maintain sufficient distance and/or barriers between animals and the general viewing public in

order to assure the safety of animals and the public. The inspector observed that a single thin rope was being used as

a barrier in front of the tigers and wrote, “This barrier is not adequate to prevent the public or other unauthorized

persons from walking under the rope and coming in contact with the tigers.”



Nyhus et al. status and evolution of laws and policies regulating tigers.pdf


Price Chopper pulls big-cat show sponsorship

August 28, 2009
By Sam Hemingway
Free Press Staff Writer

ESSEX JUNCTION — The Price Chopper supermarket chain has pulled its sponsorship of the Nerger Lion and Tigers act at the Champlain Valley Exposition, but the animal show will go on anyway when the fair opens its 10-day run today.

"We were misled by the fair," said Mona Golub, Price Chopper's vice president for public relations, said Friday. "We were led to believe we were sponsoring something along the lines of a petting zoo, not a show with big, caged animals."

Golub said the Schenectady, N.Y-based supermarket chain, which is a major advance ticket marketer for the fair, was concerned its image might be tarnished if it was associated with a show involving animals that many people believe belong in the wild. She is the daughter of Price Chopper President Neil Golub.

"We're concerned whenever our integrity is questioned in any way, shape or form," Mona Golub said. "We are an advocate for animals. A good portion of our business supports the health and happiness of animals."

The 12 tigers and one lion slated to perform at the fair belong to Hawthorn Corp., an Illinois company that has been fined and cited a number of times over the years by the federal Agriculture Department for its caging, training and care of large animals.

Golub said Price Chopper pulled the plug on its sponsorship earlier this week after getting three calls from people in the Burlington area complaining about the show and the supermarket chain's sponsoring of it.

Fair spokesman Richard Lewis said Friday that the fair stood behind the Nerger animal act. He also said fair officials did not mislead Price Chopper about what the show involved.

"When we talked to Price Chopper, we told them we would not have the petting zoo this year and that instead we would have an educational big cat show," Lewis said. "They agreed to that." Price Chopper had sponsored the petting zoo exhibit at the fair in the past.

Lewis said the fair would absorb any loss in funding for the shows that Price Chopper's sponsorship would have provided. The show is staged three times a day, at 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Juergen and Judit Nerger, the husband-and-wife trainers who run the act, said the animals in the show were all born in captivity and live longer, healthier lives than if they were in the wild.

The Nergers, both employees of Hawthorn Corp, also said they do not harm the animals in order to make them perform.

"It takes a lot of patience, a lot of treats," Judit Nerger said as she stood outside the pen for a 3-month-old tiger cub at the fair Friday afternoon. "You never mistreat an animal like that. The training methods these days have nothing to do what they did 20 or 25 years ago."

Juergen Nerger said he's irritated by criticism he gets from animal rights organizations like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and nodded at two tigers lying side by side in a cage, their legs draped over each other.

"PETA can not tell you when an animal is happy," he said. "No one can say at what time an animal is really happy. It's only a feeling us humans have when we look at them and we say they are happy."

The Rev. Gary Kowalski of the Burlington Unitarian and Universalist Church, one of the three people who contacted Price Chopper about the animal show, said it is wrong to turn lions and tigers into a form of entertainment for humans.

"These animals are caged and shipped from town to town 11 months a year," Kowalski said. "They are not like domestic pets or tamed creatures. They do not have any natural impulse to bond with humans."

Kowalski said a protest planned for Sunday at a local Price Chopper store has been canceled, but that he and others would conduct a protest of the Nerger Lion and Tiger act just outside the fair gates this morning at 10 a.m.



Our minister, the Reverend Gary Kowalski ( ), is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist. He holds degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Divinity School. A native of Oklahoma, he served churches in Memphis, Tennessee and Seattle, Washington, before accepting the call to lead us in 1989. Gary has written several books, including The Souls of Animals ( link)  and Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom For Anyone Who Has Ever Lost A Pet  ( link), published by Stillpoint; The Bible According To Noah( link) and his latest (2003), Science and the Search for God ( link), are both from Lantern Books.  He is married to Dori Jones, an attorney, and they have two children.

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