By David Madden
MARGATE, N.J. (CBS) — The 134 year old Lucy the Elephant attraction in Margate is raising money to fund some necessary repair work. The animal rights group PETA is offering to help, if they can use the site to push their agenda.
That presents a problem.
Lucy can use the donation. Leaders still need about $35,000 to fully fund $58,000 worth of paint and repair work now underway. But PETA wants to use Lucy as a backdrop for their battle against the way elephants are treated in circuses.
Richard Helfant, Lucy CEO, says the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants to drape Lucy with an animal rights message similar to the one adorning an elephant statue named “Ella” outside the group’s Washington headquarters. PETA has also indicated it wants to attach a foam chain on Lucy’s foot, according to Helfant.
His non-profit is caught between the need for cash and preserving the attraction’s legacy and reputation. “I don’t want children coming here asking their parents why is Lucy in chains,” Helfant told KYW Newsradio. “That’s contrary to what Lucy is about. Lucy puts smiles on kids faces.”
There’s also the question of how much cash PETA is putting up. Helfant won’t disclose their offer. Nor would PETA official Stephanie Jaffa.
She says the group first approached Lucy officials Thursday about the idea of teaming up.
“As a beloved icon, Lucy would be an excellent spokes-elephant for real elephants in the circus that face only pain and isolation,” Jaffa said.
She hopes for a quick agreement, but Helfant is far from willing to make that commitment without consulting with his full board of directors.
However, he is hopeful that this discussion will spur public interest and contributions to Lucy’s ongoing repair work.
People interested in helping can go to www.lucytheelephant.org to make a donation. They’re also selling a special $20 t-shirt with proceeds allocated to the restoration effort.