Whistleblower Provides Damning Evidence Against Notorious Tiger Exhibitor

Published by Michelle Kretzer.

A source close to John Cuneo, the owner of infamous circus supplier Hawthorn Corporation, has leaked information to PETA that we hope will convince the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to revoke Hawthorn’s exhibitor license permanently and to seek criminal charges against Cuneo as well as Lance Ramos, an unlicensed exhibitor who has repeatedly abused and neglected exotic animals and who, according to the whistleblower’s testimony, was unlawfully hired by Hawthorn.


Hawthorn breeds tigers and leases them to circuses around the world. It has provided Shrine circuses, Cole Bros. Circus, Jordan World Circus, George Carden Circus, Hanneford Circus, and Tarzan Zerbini Circus with tigers. The whistleblower gave PETA firsthand information about pervasive abuse and neglect of animals and apparent violations of federal law, including the following:

  • During a training session, Ramos heavily whipped tigers, often in their faces, and jabbed them with wooden rods.
  • Tigers were denied veterinary care for open, bleeding wounds and gashes on their foreheads on at least two occasions.
  • Tigers are routinely kept in small transport cages in which they pace constantly and are let out only for performances.
  • Hawthorn routinely fails to clean urine-soaked concrete floors in tigers’ enclosures and leaves out fly-infested raw meat intended for the tigers to eat.
  • Even in near-freezing temperatures, tigers were left outside with no protection from the elements.
  • Hawthorn does not keep accurate records of tigers’ births and deaths, and Cuneo purposefully fails to update the USDA with other requisite information.

These allegations are just the latest in Hawthorn’s long, sordid history of cruelty to animals. Please join PETA in asking the USDA to take the appropriate disciplinary action, including revoking Hawthorn’s license to exhibit animals.

Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to our collection, storage, use, and disclosure of your personal info in accordance with our privacy policy as well as to receiving e-mails from us.

 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