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Update: Circus Ignores Elephant in the Room—and Boy Standing Behind Her

Written by PETA | May 8, 2014

Update: Less than two months after three elephants with Carson & Barnes Circus escaped from a Shrine circus performance in Missouri and ran loose in the parking lot for nearly an hour, Carson & Barnes is in hot water again. This time, it let three elephants into an unsecured area, during which time a man and a boy approached them and the man took a photo of the boy standing behind one of the elephants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the circus for unsafe animal handling.

Originally posted on March 24, 2014:

Three elephants fled from the Moolah Shrine Circus in St. Charles, Missouri, on Saturday. They were reportedly being used to give children rides and escaped from the riding pen. Witnesses said that loud noises from the circusgoers scared the animals and they fled the building, damaging vehicles in the parking lot before they were captured.

PETA is sending a letter to Shriners International again urging it to protect patrons and animals by holding animal-free circuses.

The incident involving these frightened, frustrated elephants is just another in the long and sordid history of Shrine circuses.

Less than a year ago, a woman who was attending a Shrine circus in Salina, Kansas, came face to face with a loose tiger in the restroom. In 2010, an elephant at a Shrine circus in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, kicked a handler, tossing him approximately 20 feet. The handler sustained multiple traumatic injuries and died at the scene. In 2009, an elephant who was being used to give rides at the Murat Shrine circus in Indianapolis became startled, stumbled, and knocked over the scaffolding stairway leading to the elephant ride, injuring at least 15 children.

Animal exhibitors hired by Shrine circuses also have atrocious records of animal care, including denying suffering animals veterinary attention and physically abusing them. A trainer with Carson & Barnes, the supplier of the elephants who escaped on Saturday, was caught on video viciously beating elephants. And last summer, an eyewitness testified to seeing a Carson & Barnes handler strike an elephant with a bullhook until she screamed.

The evidence is clear: Majestic elephants have no place in captivity.

And some circuses are getting them out of the act. The Los Angeles Shrine circus has announced that after 88 years, it will discontinue using animals. The show will go on, with non-animal rides, games, and carnival treats.

You can thank the L.A. Shrine circus by e-mailing Fred Bernhardt, 116th illustrious potentate of the Al Malaikah Shrine. You can also support PETA’s call to Shriners International to end all use of animals in circuses by e-mailing Imperial Potentate John Cinotto.

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  • I feel SO despair because I cannot do more to help these poor creatures, who doesn’t deserve anything like this :(. It hurts my heart and soul and bit by bit I’m loosing my faith in mankind. There seems to be more and more people who doesn’t care at all about animals, nature, Mother Earth or people whatsoever. It’s sad that our society has driven itself in this kind of condition, where materia and money has bigger impact on people’s lives than helping the one’s in need animal or human. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder as many of us do and I need lot of strength in order to cope while I cannot do so much nothing than signing petitions to help, at the moment! I’m active trying to find more ways to help and hopefully in the future I can actually work with something that makes the difference. Luckily I’m still young, I’ve lot of time if we have time left here on Earth…

  • Priya Maeva says:

    Why are all these incidents not enough to save the elephants and ban their captivity like this?! What will it take to stop these greedy, evil demons?!

  • Hilda Geddes Higney says:

    I for one never and Millions of others, across this World, ever realized that the Shriner’s and the Lions Clubs, would ever stand for any type of torture to any animal and then make money on all these poor, helpless, horribly, abused animals! Please help to stop this NOW

  • When I wrote Imperial Potentate John Cinotto about animals in Shrine circuses, his short reply was “Suggest you look at the deer farms first.” I wrote again about his passing the buck and lack of responsibility for animal welfare! That kind of attitude is why animals continue to be abused as we speak!

  • Pat P. says:

    It’s not only that the elephants are continuously abused, but that they have been their entire lives with the circuses, and who knows how they were treated before. After being torn from their mothers when babies, terrified, spirit broken, beaten, daily chained so that they can barely even move or rest, let alone have any experience natural to them–Is it no wonder that one day, if they have any spirit left, that they go nuts. What animal or person wouldn’t? You don’t even have to be a wild animal to react that way. Has anyone ever thought of treating these animals with kindness? Is it even a word in their vocabulary? These evil sadists don’t belong near any animals or humans for that matter.
    One of the most intelligent, sensitive, social beings on this planet are being treated abominably everywhere, be it by poachers, farmers/landowners, zoos, circuses, etc. What is wrong with so much of the human race? How can they have sunk so low? I am so saddened and disgusted. Thank god for organizations like PETA. More people need to know of this horrific situation.

  • Sergio says:

    I hope the international Law recognize personhood to all the primates, dolphins and elephants, and therefore give them a wide set of rights that grant their individual and collective welfare.

  • Judith Williams says:

    Its a shame that humans continue to hurt other animals, only because man thinks he superior to other animals.

  • louis gauci says:

    This type of cruelty should be send to the media particularly to TV stations, to be shown to everybody and thus many would be aware how anmals are being treated for entertainment and exploitation, for their GREED AND PROFITS.

  • blakmira says:

    I doubt it was “loud noises” that “frightened” them into running away. I’m sure it was the years of abuse and being held as slaves that made them decide to finally escape. They had nowhere to go in mind, but they just wanted to be anywhere but there any more. Too bad they were caught in the parking lot. I’m sure they were beaten severely to “teach” them a lesson.
    Even gentle, noble creatures like elephants have their limits.

  • Cheryl Colombo says:

    God must be shedding a tear right now……this is just un-conscienable. Pray for these animals and get the word out to stop this torment!

  • Nanci R. Davis says:

    I say have them spend 24 hours with the animals in question and see how they feel then.

  • ravinder singh says:

    human race is killing everything on this earth. i say humans are most cruel

  • Jocelyn says:

    Let’s not stop until our voices stop the use of animals in all circuses! Cirque de Soleil did it and look where that got them!!

  • Coralee says:

    It’s sad that a non profit for children would exploit the innocence of captive animals to further their cause. I believe that all those comments made by people on TV that night were made not knowing anything about the elephant’s welfare. We donate to lots of charities but never would we support an organization that caused misery to another species

  • Bob Wojtyniak says:

    In the Bible it is said “humans were given dominion over the animals”. Most assumed that meant domination. But the ancient definition of dominion actually means stewardship — protection and nurturing.

    God is watching what we are doing. He is NOT happy with the cruelty that some of you are inflicting on His creatures. Remember …….. He has His ways of paying back !!!

  • Michael Reynolds says:

    The tide is turning in our country and around the world. We will not be silent any longer. Make your voices heard ” Enough is Enough”

  • Ellen Samson says:

    Wild animals DO NOT belong in a circus, or at a fair. Wild animals belong in the WILD !

  • Colleen Owens says:

    How can we call a circus family entertainment when animals are being abused and kept in small cages; what are we teaching our children? Wildlife is just that wild and need to be left to live in their own habitats.

  • Charlie says:

    I feel sick to be part of a world where we inflict such needless cruelty and suffering on other creatures.

  • Despina M. Andrelus says:

    “A righteous man regards the life of animals” – PROVERBS 12:10; “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion & pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men” – ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI; “I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs…(They) are an obligation put on us, a responsibility we have no rights to neglect, nor to violate by cruelty….” – JAMES HARRIOT; “The greatness of a nation & its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” – MAHATMA GANDHI

  • Kimberly McGowan says:

    Michelle – help Sunder – I sent an email to PETA challenging them – pleading with them – to start a campaign to free Sunder. I will personally donate $100 to a campaign to “buy” Sunder from her captors. If the world could watch as PETArs come together to free Sunder- and then show this poor elephant in a safe new home (via video) – it could be an incredibly touching – not to mention a powerful experience with a name and a face. Can you help by reaching out to PETA? Surely there is an elephant sanctuary that will offer Sunder a free home, if PETArs can come together to pay for Sunder’s freedom. I believe PETArs and non PETArs will join together for such a cause – a cause with the power of a name and a face and a story – a story with a happy ending that the world could see. Please help.

    • THarris says:

      Michelle and Kimberly, I will also donate to the cause of freeing Sunder. An article was just posted yesterday on regarding this story, and the amount of feedback and comments posted was huge. Awareness is growing on the story and most people responded that they were disheartened that there was no leads on how Sunder will be rescued. People want to help, I know it.

  • Wolfgang Pfleghar says:

    You go animals …. show those humans that you do not accept abuse anymore!!!

  • Ashie says:

    Its a shame that circuses abuse animals!! This shrine circus is coming to Columbus, OH and I dont know how to let people know about this cruelty other than posting on social media…

    • Brenda Smith says:

      Try taking an ad out in the newspaper. Maybe send info to TV and/or radio stations to get their reporters to do abuse story.? Maybe you and the rescue center could work together. Get in touch with PETA see if they might help? Hope that gives few ideas

    • EYG says:

      You could also contact the sponsors of the circus and the Chamber of Commerce Board members.

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