‘Crying Elephants’ to Crash Shriners Imperial Session Over Circus Cruelty

For Immediate Release:
June 29, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Charlotte, N.C. – On Monday, giant inflatable crying elephants will be chained and beaten by “circus performers” in fez hats outside the annual Shriners International Imperial Session at the Charlotte Convention Center. The spectacle will be part of PETA’s campaign urging the Shriners to modernize their circuses by making them animal-free, just as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is doing. Notably, the city of Charlotte banned circuses that use exotic animals, such as lions, tigers, and elephants, in 2021.

When:    Monday, July 3, 10:30 a.m.

Where:    Outside the main entrance of the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St. (between E. Brooklyn Village Avenue and E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard), Charlotte

“Elephants should be with their families in nature, but those exploited by the Shriners are chained and forced to perform one demeaning trick after another under constant threat of punishment,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is calling on Shriners International to end this cruelty at all its temples.”

Video footage shows the head trainer for Carson & Barnes Circus—which frequently provides the elephant acts for Shrine circuses—instructing trainers to sink bullhooks (weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end) 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 about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 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