New State Regulations Prompt PETA to Push for Animal-Free Shrine Circus

For Immediate Release:
May 26, 2022

Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382

Louisville, Ky. – Following the adoption of new state regulations that prohibit circuses from using endangered species and effectively ban elephant rides, PETA fired off a letter today to the potentate of the Kosair Shrine, Jon S. Dawson, calling on the Kosair Shrine Circus to go animal-free—just as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus already has. Shrine circuses are among the very last remaining shows that still deprive wild animals—including elephants and big cats—of any semblance of a natural life, carting them around in small crates and keeping them in shackles when they’re not being forced to perform.

“All animals deserve freedom from cramped cages and protection from performing tricks under the threat of violence,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on the Kosair Shrine Circus to embrace the modern, cruelty-free future of entertainment by showcasing dazzling displays of human talent, rather than exploiting animals.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and notes that the new regulations also prohibit acts featuring dangerous exotic animals at state and county fairs. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Dawson follows.

May 26, 2022

Jon S. Dawson

Illustrious Potentate

Kosair Shrine

Re: An Animal-Free Future for the Kosair Shrine Circus

Dear Mr. Dawson:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally—regarding the future of the Kosair Shrine Circus. Last week, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus officially confirmed that it’s returning in 2023 without animals. Will your organization follow its lead?

There’s no better time for the Kosair Shrine Circus to reinvent itself as an animal-free show. Earlier this month, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources adopted new regulations prohibiting circuses from using endangered species and banning elephant rides. This means that your shows can no longer use animals such as Shere Khan, a bony tiger who was forced to perform at your circus in 2021 even though he had not been properly evaluated by a veterinarian in a year, according to federal records. Nor can you use Betty, Cindy, Janice, or Vickie, the aging Asian elephants who appeared in performances in February. Decades of living in chains and performing tricks for Shrine circuses have taken a terrible toll on these elephants. Janice and Betty were recently filmed swaying in distress and struggling through performances.

Kenneth Feld, CEO Ringling’s parent company, told the New York Times, “Ringling has always evolved: Logically, in order to be successful for 146 years, you constantly have to change.” The Kosair Shrine should follow this advice. People now understand that animals are complex individuals with lives of their own who should never be whipped, caged, or chained for human entertainment.

Now is your chance at reinvention. The circus’s willing human performers will dazzle audiences with no animals exploited in the process. Will the Kosair Shrine Circus return in 2023 without animals?

Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement

For Media: Contact PETA's
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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