Reports of Circus’s Citation for Cruelty Prompt PETA Appeal: No More Elephants

Authorities in Atlanta Reportedly Catch UniverSoul Using Metal-Tipped Bullhook in Elephant’s Sensitive Mouth

For Immediate Release:
February 19, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382


Following reports that Atlanta law-enforcement officials cited both UniverSoul Circus and Larry Carden, the elephant exhibitor performing with the circus, for violating Atlanta’s cruelty-to-animals law on Saturday, PETA is renewing its call for UniverSoul to drop its animal acts and join Cirque du Soleil in showcasing talented human performers.

In a letter sent to UniverSoul today, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—points out that UniverSoul’s reported citation stemmed from a witness’s report that a handler inserted a bullhook (a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end) into an elephant’s sensitive mouth. Other witnesses reported that the incident began when an elephant named Bo missed a stunt in his circus routine and then appeared terrified to go backstage, remaining onstage for nearly an hour.

“Bullhooks are being banned by forward-thinking cities and towns nationwide because of concerns over the pain they cause elephants,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is calling on UniverSoul to spare elephants immense suffering—and itself more citations and negative media exposure—by nixing these cruel acts for good.”

For more information, please visit I can be reached at 202-540-2194 or [email protected] if you have any questions.

PETA’s letter to UniverSoul Circus CEO Cedric Walker follows.


February 19, 2015

Cedric Walker, CEO
UniverSoul Circus

Dear Mr. Walker:

I am writing to renew PETA’s call that you make the long overdue decision to eliminate inhumane elephant acts from future UniverSoul Circus performances in light of reports of new citations from the Atlanta Police Department that charge UniverSoul Circus and Larry Carden with violating Atlanta’s cruelty-to-animals law.

PETA has received reports indicating that local law-enforcement officials in Georgia have cited both UniverSoul Circus and Larry Carden, who is currently supplying elephants for your circus, for violating the provision of Atlanta’s cruelty-to-animals law that prohibits “abusive behavior towards an elephant.” A witness reported that a handler with the circus inserted a bullhook into an elephant’s mouth during a February 14, 2015, performance at Turner Field in Atlanta. Other witnesses reported that the incident began when another elephant, named Bo, appeared terrified to go backstage after missing part of his circus routine and refused to leave the stage for approximately 45 minutes. As you know, bullhooks are sharp metal weapons resembling a fireplace poker that are used to cause pain and instill fear in elephants. They are the weapon of choice among handlers to force these remarkable animals to perform unnatural and confusing tricks.

As jurisdictions across the country are recognizing bullhooks for what they are—weapons—they are being banned in cities and towns nationwide. Some jurisdictions have compassionately gone as far as banning exotic-animal performances completely. Violators will continue to be held accountable as these laws are implemented, and the archaic days of exploiting and abusing elephants for “entertainment” are on their way out. Since elephant acts and bullhook abuse go hand in hand, these types of citations, along with negative media exposure, are likely to continue to follow UniverSoul so long as it continues to facilitate elephant abuse by offering an elephant act as part of its circus.

This latest incident presents a perfect opportunity for UniverSoul to salvage its reputation. By nixing elephant acts and highlighting the phenomenal human talent that your show has to offer, UniverSoul would be elevating itself to the ranks of Cirque du Soleil, one of the best-known and most lucrative animal-free circuses as well as one of your top competitors. May I please hear from you immediately that you will remove elephant acts from your show? Our members and supporters are eagerly awaiting an update and would be thrilled with the news.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Brittany Peet
Deputy Director | Captive Animal Law Enforcement
PETA Foundation

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