PETA Calls On Illinois High School to Nix Plans to Host Abusive Circus

Kelly Miller Circus Exhibitors’ History of Violence and Neglect of Animals Teaches Kids a Dangerous Lesson, Says Group

For Immediate Release:
March 25, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Champaign, Ill.

Based on a pile of evidence of routine cruelty to animals at the Kelly Miller Circus—including eyewitness reports that handlers neglected and violently beat elephants, zebras, and other animals just last season—TeachKind, PETA’s humane-education division, has sent an urgent letter to Mahomet Seymour High School calling on it to cancel plans to host the notorious circus next month.

“Schools should teach kids to respect and empathize with others,” says PETA Director of Youth Outreach and Campaigns Marta Holmberg. “PETA and TeachKind are calling on Mahomet Seymour High School to send the message to students that acts of violence against any living being are unacceptable.”

In its letter, TeachKind points out that Carson & Barnes, which supplies the elephant act for Kelly Miller, has a long documented history of elephant abuse. An undercover video captured a Carson & Barnes elephant trainer as he viciously attacked elephants with a bullhook—a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end—and shocked them with electric prods. And throughout last summer, eyewitnesses reported chronic abuse and neglect by other exhibitors with Kelly Miller. A mother and her son said that they witnessed a handler beat an elephant with a bullhook so hard that the animal screamed.

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TeachKind’s letter to Mahomet Seymour High School follows.


March 25, 2014


Principal Shannon Cheek
Mahomet Seymour High School


Dear Principal Cheek:

I am writing on behalf of TeachKind, PETA’s humane-education division, regarding Mahomet Seymour High School’s plans to host the Kelly Miller Circus. TeachKind works with schools around the country to promote compassion, so we hope that in light of the following information, you will cancel your plans to host Kelly Miller Circus and instead encourage children to partake in activities that cultivate compassion and kindness toward animals and each other.

A mother who was on Kelly Miller’s premises in Point Place, Ohio, on August 8 just last summer with her 13-year-old son swore out an affidavit that details how a handler with Carson & Barnes Circus—which provides elephants to Kelly Miller—viciously attacked an elephant. According to the sworn testimony, the handler struck the elephant with an instrument commonly referred to as a “bullhook” with such force that each blow produced an audible “whack” sound, until the elephant screamed.

Additionally, concerned citizens who attended Kelly Miller throughout the summer have reported chronic abuse and neglect by other exhibitors with Kelly Miller, including extremely tight tethering of animals, handlers who slapped animals in the face, a handler who consistently whipped zebras during performances, and more. This undercover video of a Carson & Barnes training session shows trainer Tim Frisco viciously attacking screaming elephants with a bullhook and shocking them with electric prods.

Children don’t learn anything meaningful about animals by attending a circus. Dr. Sujatha Ramakrishna, a psychiatrist specializing in early childhood development, has observed: “When parents take their children to the circus, they indirectly send them the message that animals are objects to be used, and that it is OK to ignore any pain and suffering that the animals might be experiencing. These children may grow up lacking empathy …. If they are unable to recognize when someone else is in distress, they will have difficulties getting along with people.”

Because you are in charge of an educational institution, it is imperative that you encourage your students to have empathy and respect for all living beings, so I hope that upon reflection and review of this information as well as the attached factsheet, you’ll agree that promoting the circus is wholly inappropriate. May I please hear back from you by March 31 that you have canceled your plans to host Kelly Miller Circus at Mahomet Seymour High School?

Very truly yours,

Nina Kahn
TeachKind Coordinator, PETA

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