Northern Illinois Professor, Students Help Block Cruel Circus Performance

Students and Faculty Receive peta2 Award After 'Circus Spectacular' Cancels Appearance Planned for March 4

For Immediate Release:
February 20, 2014

Sophia Charchuk 202-483-7382

DeKalb, Ill. – When students and faculty at Northern Illinois University (NIU) learned that an exotic-animal circus known as the George Carden Circus planned to perform on campus on March 4, they sprang into action. NIU anthropology professor Mitch Irwin rallied some 2,700 students to sign a petition calling for the school to block the circus’s appearance, and the Student Association rode the wave of public support to vote nearly unanimously to release a resolution proclaiming its own opposition to the circus. This memo was sent to NIU officials—and shortly thereafter, the circus canceled its planned appearance, and it has no plans to return to NIU.

In recognition of their efforts to take a strong stand against circuses that use and abuse animals, Irwin, the Student Association, and the students of NIU will receive Heroes for Elephants awards from peta2, PETA’s youth division.

“Once students learn about how circuses beat elephants, tigers, and other animals into performing, they’re eager to oppose these cruel outfits,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is confident that NIU’s successful anti-animal abuse campaign will inspire more schools across the country to take action to help animals on their campuses.”

Circuses routinely confine elephants and big cats to filthy boxcars or trucks and drag them around the country in all weather extremes, denying them everything that is natural and important to them. And PETA’s video exposé of circuses, narrated by Alec Baldwin, reveals how circus handlers use bullhooks—a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp steel hook on one end—to beat elephants in order to show them “who’s boss” and force them to obey out of fear of punishment.

When Circus Spectacular scrapped its March 4 performance, it cited “inclement weather” despite deciding to cancel the show two weeks in advance.

For more information, please visit


For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

 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