NASCAR Driver Leilani Münter Asks Sandusky Speedway to Red-Flag Carson & Barnes Circus

Track Should Put the Brakes On Circus's Cruel Treatment of Animals

For Immediate Release:
August 8, 2014

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Sandusky, Ohio – Professional NASCAR driver Leilani Münter has sent a letter on behalf of PETA to the Sandusky Speedway asking that a planned appearance by Carson & Barnes Circus be canceled. Carson & Barnes has racked up more than 100 citations for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act by mistreating animals and endangering the public.

Münter, a vegan and an environmentalist, has long worked to protect animals and has been named the number one “eco athlete” in the world. “This circus is notorious for its mistreatment and exploitation of animals,” she writes, “and as a racing professional, I don’t want our sport associated with such cruelty.”

Just last August before a circus performance in Point Place, Ohio, an eyewitness gave sworn testimony that a handler for Carson & Barnes Circus beat an elephant with four children on her back until she screamed. The witness reported that the device used to beat the animal appeared to be a bullhook—a heavy baton that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end—the standard weapon that circuses use to keep elephants submissive and afraid.

An undercover video of a Carson & Barnes training session shows its head trainer, Tim Frisco, viciously attacking elephants with a bullhook and shocking them with electric prods. The elephants scream in agony while recoiling from the assaults. Frisco can be heard instructing his protégés to strike the elephants forcefully with bullhooks and to sink them into the elephants’ flesh and twist them until the animals scream in pain.

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Münter’sletter to the Sandusky Speedway follows and is also available here.


August 8, 2014


Doug Dock, General Manager
Sandusky Speedway Motorsports Park

Will Patterson, Race Director
Sandusky Speedway Motorsports Park


Dear Mr. Dock and Mr. Patterson:

As a professional racecar driver and lover of racing, I am disappointed to hear from the folks at PETA that you are planning to host Carson & Barnes Circus at your speedway. This circus is notorious for its mistreatment and exploitation of animals, and as a racing professional, I don’t want our sport associated with such cruelty.

You and I both know that tigers don’t naturally jump through rings of fire, elephants don’t stand on balls or balance on their heads, and bears don’t ride bikes. So why do they behave this way in the circus? It’s not because they are offered praise or treats in return. It’s because they are violently beaten into submission. They perform confusing and unnatural tricks out of fear of what’s to come if they don’t. This undercover video of a Carson & Barnes training session forever changed my understanding of how animals are used in circuses. It shows the cruel antics of elephant trainer Tim Frisco—who still works for Carson & Barnes—as he trains elephant handlers on how to use bullhooks and electric prods to make the animals perform. “Sink that hook into ’em,” he says. “When you hear that screaming, then you know you got their attention. … Make ’em scream.” Bears and elephants are seen nervously pacing and bobbing their heads, both of which are signs of severe psychological stress, according to animal behavior experts. They are confined to cages that are far too small or chained so tightly that they are barely able to move, and they are denied basic necessities, such as the opportunity to exercise, socialize, and play.

Carson & Barnes has racked up more than 100 citations for violating the Animal Welfare Act by mistreating animals and endangering the public. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited the circus just this past April for failure to have a handler present as a man and his son approached from behind to take photos. Violations like this put the public at great risk—on average, one person is killed by an elephant every year in the U.S., and many more are injured. The USDA also cited Carson & Barnes in December for failing to provide a llama who had an eye condition and a thin body with adequate veterinary care. These animals are dragged around the country in trailers with very poor ventilation. They are mistreated, overworked to the point of exhaustion, and, all too often, neglected and denied access to veterinary care for injuries inflicted by handlers or sustained as a result of the grueling circus life that they are forced to endure—all so that we can be “entertained.”

I am asking that you immediately cancel the Carson & Barnes performance scheduled for August 12 and that you join me in pledging never to promote this circus or any other animal act in the future. At the very least, please make this year the last time that you ever host an animal act. I support your speedway and appreciate your love of racing, but I can’t support your decision to promote abuse and neglect.


Leilani Münter

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