After Kids’ Injuries, Will Shriners End Animal Circuses?

Incident in Pittsburgh Prompts PETA Push to Shriners International

For Immediate Release:
September 17, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Tampa, Fla.

After yesterday’s incident at the Pittsburgh Shrine Circus, where a camel forced to give rides was spooked and threw off riders, causing injuries to an adult and six children—at least one of whom sustained a broken arm as a result—PETA sent a letter today renewing its call for Shriners International to end all animal acts in circuses.

“This is far from the first time an animal has hurt someone at a Shrine circus, and it won’t be the last as long as camels, elephants, and tigers are still being bullied into performing,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is calling on Shriners International to protect children and animals by giving audiences thrilling circus shows that star talented human performers, not abused animals.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that many Shriners have already moved away from hosting wild-animal acts, including the Missoula Shrine Circus, the Jerusalem Shriners, and Shrine circuses in Canada.

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PETA’s letter to Shriners International Imperial Potentate Jim Cain follows.

September 17, 2018

Jim Cain, Imperial Potentate

Shriners International

Dear Mr. Cain,

I’m writing on behalf of PETA with an urgent request for Shriners International to end animal circuses after six children and one adult were injured and taken to the hospital yesterday when they were thrown off a camel who got spooked at the Pittsburgh Shrine Circus. At least one of the children sustained a broken arm as a result. If animals had been left out of the show, this camel and these children would have been spared this terror.

This incident isn’t surprising given that some animals, like camels, are easily startled. Exotic animals may also lash out in frustration against the bullhooks—sharp, steel-tipped devices that resemble a fireplace poker—whips, and other weapons used to force them to perform confusing and painful tricks. They’ve been involved in dozens of incidents resulting in human injuries and deaths—as well as significant property damage—such as when three elephants performing in the Moolah Shrine Circus escaped from their handlers and damaged multiple cars in the parking lot. And between performances at the Irem Shrine Circus, an animal handler was kicked and thrown about 20 feet by an elephant. The handler died at the scene from multiple traumatic injuries.

A recent expert report detailed the neglect, abuse, and coercion of animals at Shrine circuses, including trainers whipping and jabbing tigers with prods, striking an elephant in the jaw, and forcing distressed, muzzled bears to do handstands. Last year, eyewitness video footage showed a bear urinating in apparent distress when being pulled by a leash and forced to walk on his or her front legs during a Tangier Shrine Circus performance.

Many Shriners are moving away from this cruelty. The Missoula Shrine Circus dropped wild-animal acts, Shrine circuses in Canada haven’t used wild animals in years, the Orillia Shrine Club abandoned its longtime circus and instead held an Oktoberfest fundraiser, and the Jerusalem Shriners recently announced their decision never again to host an animal circus.

Shriners International—an organization devoted to doing good—should dissociate itself from the egregious cruelty inherent in using animals for entertainment and the potential harm that it can do to children, who the Shriners very adeptly work to help in other ways. This is a unique opportunity to give audiences what they really want—spectacular human talent that doesn’t compromise animal or child welfare—while promoting benevolence and sharing the Shriners’ mission.

Very truly yours,

Tracy Reiman
Executive Vice President
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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