Twelve children were treated by paramedics on Saturday when an elephant who was being forced to give rides at the Indiana State Fairgrounds bumped into the mobile staircase on which kids stood awaiting rides, knocking it down. The rides were being given between performances of the Murat Shrine Circus. Luckily, the kids only suffered minor injuries, but people involved in other elephant-ride incidents haven’t been so lucky.
The staircase collapse isn’t the first dangerous incident involving an elephant used by a Shrine Circus. In 2005, a trainer working for the Shrine Circus in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was stomped to death as he loaded elephants onto a trailer. In 2003, an elephant at the Shrine Circus in Muskegon, Michigan, escaped from a tent and fled into a busy downtown area. In 2002, two elephants with the Shrine Circus in Dunn County, Wisconsin, bolted out of a circus tent, scattering frightened circusgoers.
In other Shrine Circus news, we’ve learned that an exhibitor whose bears were used during a Shrine Circus performance last year at Knox County Middle School in Tennessee was cited by the USDA for serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including seating people within 20 feet of the bear without a barrier of any kind. We’ve written a letter to the school principal urging him to ban circuses with animal acts from appearing on school grounds in the future.
Many people don’t realize that the Shriners do not operate their own circus. Shrine temples either hire an existing circus or put together a collection of animal exhibitors and other acts that perform under the Shrine Circus name. Many of the animal exhibitors the Shriners hire have deplorable records of animal care. Click here to read our factsheet on the Shrine Circus.
People, run—don’t walk—away from any circus that uses animals. And whatever you do, don’t let any guy in a fez talk you into placing your tots on the back of some poor elephant whose own kids have been taken away from her and who now spends her days being chained up and jabbed with a bullhook. Today just might be the day she snaps. And really, who could blame her?
Written by Alisa Mullins