PETA Calls On Circus to End All Animal Acts—Not Just Elephant Ones!

Group Points to Video of Exhibitor’s Abuse of Elephants and Urges Duluth Shriners to End Animal Acts Immediately, Not Next Year

For Immediate Release:
February 6, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Duluth, Minn.

This morning, PETA sent a letter thanking the AAD Shrine for pledging to make 2020 the last year that elephants will be used in its annual circus—and urging the Shriners not to wait to help animals and instead make 2020 the first year that the circus goes animal-free.

PETA points out that modern audiences are appalled by animal abuse and that Brian Franzen—who has supplied the elephant and tiger act for the AAD Shrine Circus—was caught on video striking an elephant in the jaw with a bullhook, a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end.

“An animal-free circus can’t come soon enough for the elephants and tigers who are chained, caged, beaten, or whipped into performing,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on the AAD Shriners to embrace the future now by featuring astonishing human performers, not abused animals, in their 2020 circus shows.”

PETA previously called on the AAD Shrine Circus to go animal-free in 2014, citing mistreatment of an elephant named Nosey, who was used in the circus. Last year, authorities in Alabama seized Nosey after finding her dehydrated, malnourished, and afflicted with infections and arthritis.

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, visit

PETA’s letter to Justin Stokke, potentate of the AAD Shriners, follows.

February 6, 2020

Justin Stokke


AAD Shrine

Dear Mr. Stokke,

I’m writing on behalf of PETA and its more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide to thank you for making 2020 the last year in which elephants will be used in the AAD Shrine Circus. We’re thrilled that you’re ending elephant acts, but for the sake of the animals, please don’t wait—will you make the circus completely animal-free this year and in the future?

The public’s demand for animal-free entertainment has never been greater, as more and more people learn about the cruelty inherent in forcing animals to perform uncomfortable, dangerous, and sometimes painful tricks. For example, Brian Franzen—who has supplied the elephant and tiger acts for your circus—was caught on video striking an elephant named Megu in the jaw with a bullhook (a sharp steel-tipped weapon resembling a fireplace poker) while she was lying down. According to an expert, all the elephants exhibited by Franzen “were taught, and are continuously managed, using archaic, aversive, and painful handling techniques.” The primary method observed to control the big cats was to yell at them and prod, whip, or goad them.

Shrine circuses should be fun for everyone, but they’re miserable for the tigers forced to jump through hoops and the elephants forced to live in dark, cramped trailers. The Western Montana Shrine Circus nixed wild-animal acts, Shrine circuses in Canada haven’t used wild animals in years, the Orillia Shrine Club abandoned its longtime circus and instead held an Oktoberfest fundraiser, the Jerusalem Shrine announced its decision never again to host an animal circus, and the Bahia and Melha shrines just ended their animal circuses. Now, nearly 700 venues and dozens of communities nationwide have prohibited or restricted animal circuses.

Will you please highlight your circus’s astonishing human talent and ensure that all animals are left out of upcoming and future performances? Thank you for your consideration.

Kind regards,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Deputy Director

Captive Animal Law Enforcement

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