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 fireplace pokers—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 James E. Stolze Jr. and the leadership of Shrine clubs:

2. Call Stolze at 623-810-9990 and politely ask him to pass a bylaw banning the use of animals at Shriner events. If you reach his voicemail, leave a message:

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

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

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:

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