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UniverSoul Circus Whistleblower Report Will Make Your Jaw Drop

Written by PETA | November 6, 2013

PETA is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate new and shocking allegations of animal abuse, neglect, and employee endangerment at UniverSoul Circus.

According to a sworn affidavit signed by a former employee who spent numerous years on the road with the circus, “The treatment of animals—particularly elephants and big cats—that I witnessed during the course of my employment for [Soul Circus, Inc.] struck me as highly inappropriate, unnatural, and abusive.”

Elephants Chained 24 Hours a Day

The whistleblower reports that three elephants—Makia, LouLou, and Lovie—whom UniverSoul pays Jorge Barreda to include in its shows are chained at performance venues by one leg 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unless they’re performing. The chains are so short that the elephants are unable to lie down, turn around, or exercise.

According to the whistleblower, the elephants are always kept chained with inadequate protection from the sun and elements when traveling with UniverSoul. During one storm, they were forced to stand outside in at least 18 inches of waste-filled floodwater, exposing them to the danger of falling trees and power lines and other harmful conditions. The storm was so strong that a canopy collapsed on top of the elephants.

Like other elephants forced into entertainment against their will, Makia, LouLou, and Lovie show chronic signs of extreme stress, including repeatedly bobbing their heads and swaying back and forth.

Big Cats Live in Travel Cages

The tigers and cougar whom UniverSoul pays notorious big-cat owner Mitchel Kalmanson to include in its shows are also suffering. Relegated to tiny cages, the big cats are not provided with access to exercise pens at any of the performance venues. The imprisoned animals frequently growl and exhibit extreme stress by pacing in small cages. When they have been exposed to extreme heat, the whistleblower describes seeing the big cats trying to soak their paws in their drinking water in a desperate attempt to cool off.

One of Kalmanson’s handlers informed the whistleblower that the tigers are declawed—a cruel and painful procedure that the USDA prohibits.

During UniverSoul Circus’ 2012 tour, two employees had parts of their fingers bitten off by tigers, illustrating a disregard for employee safety and animal welfare.

PETA Demands Action

PETA has filed two urgent complaints: One with OSHA in behalf of UniverSoul’s employees, who have been placed in life-threatening situations, and another with the USDA urging it to investigate the whistleblower’s testimony of animal abuse and endangerment. The whistleblower’s testimony is consistent with other evidence that PETA has recently obtained of animal abuse and neglect, especially with regard to the treatment of the big cats used for UniverSoul.

What You Can Do

Don’t buy tickets to circuses that include animals in their shows—and be sure to tell friends and family why.

Commenting is closed.
  • Bronx ny says:

    I think there may be some truth to this person’s allegations however why did this person wait until they no longer work there to want to speak up in the animals defense and not while it’s happening. People who know what’s going on and do nothing are just as guilty. I believe if this whistleblower was still in participation with the circus they would have never come forward. Misery loves company people who are unemployed and unhappy are looking for others to join them. I pray what the whistleblower is saying is not true however if it is shame on them all.

  • Julia says:

    Never will I or my family attend a circus that uses animals! I pray one day they will no longer be allowed to exploit animals!

  • Becky says:

    Please sign all petitions pertaining to the use of animals in any circus.

  • Becky says:

    This is so wrong! Please stop the use of animals in all circus shows. It is so inhumane!

  • Aly says:

    Groupon NY is selling discounted tickets to this aweful circus, I’m going to write to groupon about their moral standards asking them not to support this cruelty and hope that you will too.

  • Swati says:

    High time humans realise animals are four the wild, not for exhibit in zoos

  • patti lawson says:

    This makes me sick…please everyone lets keep up the protests, etc on these idiots who have no respect or feelings for these beautiful creatures.

  • Cindi says:

    I stopped going to circuses when I was young because of the horrible treatment of the elephants and big cats. This has to be stopped!!!! These people need to be severely dealt with.

  • Jody Stickney says:

    This place should have been shut down years ago.

  • Lois olmstead says:

    Thank you for taking action against these people!