Circus promoters use
schools as marketing tools and target children as unwitting customers. Many
circuses solicit schools to help with promotions, enticing them to organize
field trips to the circus, distribute free or discounted tickets, sponsor the
circus, or host the circus on school property.
When Chicago parent
Julie Ferguson chaperoned a classroom field trip to the Medinah Shrine Circus,
the excitement turned to horror after the elephant act. In a letter to the
editor, Julie wrote, "When the elephants were brought behind the curtain,
the trainer began verbally abusing and hitting the elephant. We watched in
horror as he swung a stick with all his force and struck the elephant in the
back of the leg. This must have hurt because the elephant let out a scream. The
kids were frightened and asked me why the man was hurting the elephant. Instead
of learning about the magnificence of elephant behavior, the children witnessed
human behavior at its worst. They learned the ugly truth about how animals are
treated in circuses."
Parents, members of the community, and even students need to meet with school
boards to discourage school promotions of circuses with animal acts. When they
do, school boards listen.
At least 12 states
(California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey,
New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin) have humane-education
laws that you can cite to bolster the point that circuses should not be a part
of any school activity and that schools should not endorse them. These laws
mandate that children should be taught to adopt principles of kindness and to
avoid being cruel to animals.
Circuses with animal acts also pose a serious
threat to public safety. Elephants, tigers, bears, primates, and other animals
have escaped and caused deaths and injuries to members of the public as well as
destruction of property.
You can make a difference
in your community. Use the information on this page and at our undercover investigation that showed Ringling
Bros. animal handlers beating elephants. Your school board may cut cruel animal
acts from the curriculum and thank you for exposing the big lie behind the big
Here is a step-by-step guide to assist you in approaching your school board. We have also included several links to resources that you may find useful.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.