Incoming Garden Bros. Circus Show Violates the Law, PETA Says

There's a Ban on Abusing Exotic Animals, Forcing Them to Perform Unnatural Behavior, so Show May Break Law Unless It Goes Elephant-Free

For Immediate Release:
September 16, 2019

David Perle 202-483-7382

Baton Rouge, La. – Because there’s a city ordinance prohibiting events in which wild or exotic animals, including elephants, engage in unnatural types of behavior or are physically harassed, abused, or mentally or physically stressed, PETA sent a letter today urging city officials to require that Garden Bros. Circus abide by it—by leaving elephants out of its scheduled show on September 19. The circus has a history of animal welfare violations and an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau.

“Elephants used by circuses give rides, stand on their heads, and ‘dance’ to loud music only because they’ve been beaten into submission and fear the bullhook in the trainer’s hand,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on officials to enforce the city’s law barring elephant acts and urges the public to stay away from this notoriously cruel spectacle.”

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’s letter to Hilton Cole, animal control director for the city of Baton Rouge, follows.

September 16, 2019

Hilton Cole

Animal Control Director

City of Baton Rouge

Dear Mr. Cole,

I’m writing on behalf of PETA to request again that the City of Baton Rouge enforce its laws by requiring that the notoriously cruel Garden Bros. Circus perform without elephants when it’s in town this week.

City law specifically prohibits events in which any wild or exotic animals, including elephants, engage in unnatural behaviors or are physically harassed, abused, or mentally or physically stressed. Code of Ordinances of the City of Baton Rouge and the Parish of East Baton Rouge §§ 14:302(d), 14:110.

In their natural habitats, elephants wouldn’t give rides, stand on their heads, “dance” to loud music, or be shackled in chains. They only perform dangerous and confusing tricks at circuses like Garden Bros. because they’ve been beaten into submission—and Garden Bros. and its exhibitors have a well-documented history of abusing elephants and other animals. In 2017, a circus whistleblower reported seeing elephants with blood dripping from behind their ears and witnessing a trainer “warm up” elephants by jabbing them with a bullhook or by shocking them. Another trainer with Garden Bros. was warned by federal officials for beating an elephant in the face with a bullhook. Garden Bros.’ current elephant exhibitor, Larry Carden, was charged with cruelty to animals after he reportedly tried to move an elephant by inserting a bullhook into the animal’s mouth.

By allowing Garden Bros.—which has an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau—to flout the law in Baton Rouge, you are putting elephants in harm’s way. PETA urges Baton Rouge to join the growing list of municipalities that have enforced their own ordinances by barring Garden Bros. from using elephants—including Little Falls, Minnesota; Rio Rancho, New Mexico; Norfolk, Virginia; and more. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Deputy Director | Captive Animal Law Enforcement

CC: Anderson Dotson III, Parish Attorney and City Prosecutor

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