Breaking: Protesters Confront New Shrine Potentate Over Circus Cruelty

For Immediate Release:
July 5, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Charlotte, N.C.

Earlier today, PETA kicked its campaign urging the Shriners to end their use of wild-animal circuses into high gear by disrupting an event held during the Shriners International Imperial Session, swarming the stage at the Shriners Incoming Potentate Pageant to appeal to new Imperial Potentate James “Ed” Stolze to ban cruel animal acts. Video footage of the scene is available here.

This morning’s disruption comes one day after PETA’s animal allies forestalled Stolze as he exited his car on the dragway of the Shriners Imperial Session’s Fourth of July parade. And on Monday, protesters broadcast a pro-animal protection appeal by descending on the annual Shriners International Imperial Session at the Charlotte Convention Center wearing fez hats and holding aloft bullhooks (a fireplace poker–like object with a sharp hook on one end that’s used to intimidate and strike elephants) and giant inflatable crying elephants. They also entered the Charlotte Oasis Shriners’ Temple as the Shriners and their wives prayed, unveiling signs calling for an end to the Shrine’s animal exploitation.

“PETA is pushing for the day when the Shriners will agree that no elephant should be chained, beaten, or forced to perform in circus shows that are cruel and outdated,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “We’re upping the ante in urging Shiners International to stop promoting big-time cruelty under the big top.”

Animals used in circuses are beaten, whipped, caged, chained, and forced to perform demeaning and stressful tricks under constant threat of punishment. Video footage shows the head trainer for Carson & Barnes Circus—which frequently provides the elephant acts for Shrine circuses—instructing trainers to sink bullhooks into elephants’ flesh and twist them until the animals scream. Carson & Barnes’ appallingly long history of animal abuse includes more than 100 citations for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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