Shrine Circuses: Where Animal Exploitation Takes Center Ring

For over 100 years, several Shrine circuses have made a spectacle out of exploiting sensitive and intelligent animals, including elephants, tigers, and bears who were taken from their mothers as babies to be subjected to a lifetime of suffering. Yet Shriners International hasn’t ended these cruel events, which some Shrine temples continue to host.

Shriners Fez Hat with text that says STOP SHRINERS' CRUEL ANIMAL CIRCUSES

Animals forced to perform in Shrine circuses live under the constant threat of being hit with bullhooks—sharp steel-tipped implements that resemble a fireplace poker—whips, and other weapons. Damning video footage of violence at these circuses and abuse during “training” abounds, including of an exhibitor directing trainers to sink and twist bullhooks into elephants’ skin to “make them scream.”

Some well-intentioned people may think that attending a Shrine circus benefits children. But the truth is that ticket sales aren’t charitable donations: The profits are generally used to maintain the club’s premises and fund its activities. Children naturally love animals, and if they knew about the cruelty behind the scenes of animal circuses, they would never want to attend.

Times have changed. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced its return to the circus ring using only willing human participants. The Western Montana Shrine Circus and the AAD Shriners dropped wild-animal acts, Shrine circuses in Canada haven’t used wild animals in years, and the Bahia, Jerusalem, and Melha shrines discontinued their annual animal circuses.

Take the steps below to tell Shriners that it’s high time they stopped using animal acts in their fundraisers.

1. Send an e-mail to Shriners International Imperial Potentate Kenneth G. Craven and the leadership of Shrine clubs:

E-Mail Kenneth G. Craven

E-Mail Gregory Brooks of Sharon Shrine

E-Mail Richard Hubbard of Hadi Shrine

E-Mail Jeff Ferguson of Yaarab Shrine

E-Mail Mitch Weinsting of Moolah Shrine

2. Call Craven at 843-296-5500 and politely ask him to pass a bylaw banning the use of animals at Shriner events. If you reach his voicemail, leave a message:

Call Kenneth G. Craven

Let Us Know How Your Call Went

3. Contact Shriners International and its board of directors on social media and ask them to end their cruel animal circuses:

Contact Shriners International on Instagram

4. Click below to let Shriners know that circuses are no place for animals:

Contact Shriners International

Contact Shrine Clubs That Host Animal Circuses

5. Contact these Shrine clubs on Facebook and urge them to stop forcing elephants, tigers, and other animals to perform:

6. Use these Shrine clubs’ online forms to tell them to stop using animals in their circuses:

Contact Sharon Shrine Through Its Online Form

Contact Hadi Shrine Through Its Online Form

Contact Yaarab Shrine Through Its Online Form

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind