Bahia Shrine Nixes Animal Circus After PETA and ARFF Campaign

End of Shriners’ Annual Circus Delivers a Blow to Cruel Animal Exhibitors

For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2019

David Perle 202-483-7382

Apopka, Fla.

This morning, PETA and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) sent a letter thanking the Bahia Shrine for confirming that it will no longer host its yearly wild-animal circus, which has featured elephants supplied by the notorious Carson & Barnes Circus and tigers from the now-defunct Hawthorn Corporation.

“The Bahia Shrine finally recognized that people don’t want to see bullied animals performing stupid tricks,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “Every Shrine club that rejects animal circuses helps PETA banish these abusive spectacles to the history books.”

“We applaud the Bahia Shriners for moving away from using animal circuses as a fundraiser,” says ARFF President Nanci Alexander. “We hope other Shrine temples will follow their lead and stop supporting cruel animal acts.”

The Hawthorn Corporation went out of business in 2017 after dozens of tiger deaths, and the head trainer of Carson & Barnes Circus was caught on video viciously beating elephants with a bullhook (a weapon resembling a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end) and shocking them with an electric prod. When animals aren’t being used in performances, they’re usually shackled in chains or locked inside cramped cages around the clock.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

PETA and ARFF’s letter to Edward M. Sexton, potentate of the Bahia Shriners, follows.

October 16, 2019

Edward M. Sexton


Bahia Shriners

Dear Mr. Sexton,

We’re writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and its more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide as well as the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) to thank you for heeding the public’s call for an end to cruel and dangerous animal acts by no longer hosting the annual Bahia Shrine Circus.

The public’s demand for animal-free entertainment has never been greater, as more and more people learn about the cruelty inherent in forcing animals to perform uncomfortable and possibly painful tricks. For example, the head trainer of Carson & Barnes Circus—the elephant exhibitor that Bahia Shrine has used—was caught on video viciously attacking elephants with a sharp metal-tipped bullhook and shocking them with an electric prod. And the Hawthorn Corporation—which previously provided the circus with tigers—went out of business after dozens of tiger deaths.

People love the circus for its aerialists, daredevils, acrobats, and clowns—all human performers who chose to be part of the circus and who are free to go home to their families at the end of the day. Successful circuses are dazzling audiences without exploiting animals, while animal-exploiting businesses are shutting down. The Western Montana Shrine Circus nixed 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 and Melha shrines ended their annual animal circus.

We commend you for no longer supporting an industry that forces tigers to jump through hoops and elephants to live in dark, cramped trailers.

Very truly yours,

Melanie Johnson

Assistant Manager

Animals in Entertainment Campaign


Nick Atwood

Campaigns Coordinator


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