Illegal Tiger Act Prompts PETA to Push for Animal-Free Shrine Circus

For Immediate Release:
November 30, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Evansville, In.

After the Hadi Shrine Circus knowingly used suffering tigers in a circus act on Thanksgiving, PETA sent a letter this morning to John Nelson, potentate of the Hadi Shriners, informing him that the act was unlicensed—violating federal law—and calling on him to commit to hosting only animal-free circuses from now on.

In the days leading up to the circus, PETA notified the Hadi Shriners that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had cited tiger exhibitor Adam Burck for warehousing tigers in cramped travel cages inside a stiflingly hot, maggot-filled barn, as revealed in this new video footage. The Shriners removed Burck from the list of planned circus acts and told the public that an act had been “canned” as a result of the citations, while the USDA canceled Burck’s license to exhibit animals. So when PETA received footage of Burck forcing an elderly tiger to perform at the circus on November 25, it rushed a complaint to Evansville Animal Care & Control, which had the unlicensed act pulled from the circus’s remaining performances.

“The Hadi Shriners knew that tigers had suffered in stench and slop inside Adam Burck’s barn and still let his unlicensed act take center stage at their circus,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on the Shriners to learn from this severe lapse in judgment and keep all animal acts out of future circus shows.”

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 or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Nelson follows.

November 30, 2021

John E. Nelson

Illustrious Potentate

Hadi Shriners

Dear Mr. Nelson:

I’m writing on behalf of PETA regarding the Hadi Shrine’s troubling decision to feature tiger exhibitor Adam Burck at its 2021 circus, despite knowing of his recent and egregious citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for housing tigers in cramped travel cages in a hot, maggot-filled barn. Damning video footage from the inspection shows exactly how these tigers live so that circuses like yours can use them: in filthy crates so small they can barely turn around. Burck’s USDA license was also recently canceled, meaning his exhibition at your circus violated federal law. In light of this preventable and foreseeable incident, PETA urges you to commit to hosting only animal-free circuses going forward.

In the days leading up to this year’s Hadi Shrine Circus, and after learning from PETA about Burck’s history of mistreating the tigers he forces to perform, your organization appeared poised to leave Burck out of the lineup, removing him from the list of planned acts on your website and publicly stating that an act had been “canned” due to USDA citations. Yet PETA received footage of Burck’s Thanksgiving Day performance at your circus, during which he forced the 15-year-old tiger Shere Khan to perform even though he appears unhealthy, with prominent vertebrae. At 3:40 in the footage, the tiger attempts to jump onto a pedestal but slips and falls to the side. He then cowers away from Burck in anticipation of punishment. In confusion, he attempts the jump again and Burck shoves him mid-leap with both hands, knocking him off the pedestal.

Only after PETA alerted Evansville Animal Care and Control to Burck’s illegal performance was his act pulled from the circus. The decision to go forward with Burck’s cruel act—and any animal act—displays a severe lapse in judgment, which exacerbated and prolonged the suffering of these animals. The only way to ensure that no animal is abused on your watch is to remove all animal acts from your future circuses. PETA urges you to take this step to protect animals.

Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Director | Captive Animal Law Enforcement

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