Shrine Circus Under Fire for Footage of Suffering Elephants

PETA and Animal Protection of New Mexico Call for Future Circus Performances to Be Animal-Free

For Immediate Release:
March 1, 2017

David Perle 202-483-7382

Based on video footage showing one elephant at a recent performance of New Mexico’s Shrine Circus rocking and swaying in apparent distress backstage—and another exhibiting signs of painful lameness after being used for rides—PETA and Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) sent a letter this morning calling on the Ballut Abyad Shriners to ensure that future circus shows do not feature animal acts.

In the letter, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that forcing elephants to perform tricks and keeping them chained on hard surfaces, as is standard circus practice, can cause painful joint problems and psychological distress. In addition, the Carden family—who supplied the elephant acts for the Shriners’ show—has a history of endangering the public and failing to provide animals with proper veterinary care.

“When an elephant sways back and forth or demonstrates soreness as she walks, it’s a sign of suffering,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on the Ballut Abyad Shriners to ensure that their future circuses are kinder by pledging to feature only talented human performers and no captive animals.”

“The cruel practice of using elephants and other wild animals for entertainment has become increasingly controversial and publicly unpopular,” APNM Cruelty Case Manager Alan Edmonds notes. “Succumbing to years of public pressure to stop using elephants in its shows, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus retired its elephants. Now, it’s the Shriners’ turn.”

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PETA and APNM’s letter to the potentate of the Ballut Abyad Shriners in New Mexico follows.

March 1, 2017

Ray St. John

Ballut Abyad New Mexico Shriners

Dear Mr. St. John,

We’re writing on behalf of PETA and Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) regarding distressed and potentially injured elephants who were recently exhibited at the New Mexico Shrine Circus. We urge you to consider these facts and hope you’ll agree that wild animals no longer have any place at your circus.

Video footage from your event on February 11 that was given to APNM shows an elephant—believed to be Carol, exhibited by Brett Carden—who was left backstage, rocking and swaying in apparent distress. This abnormal stereotypic behavior is a sign of stress, suggesting poor welfare and suffering. Later, a second elephant enters the video after being used for rides. She exhibits stiffness of her hind limbs, indicative of pain and particularly prominent in the left hind limb, which she swings outward as she noticeably leans her weight to the right side while walking (beginning at 2:47).

This footage is only the most recent instance of lameness that PETA has documented involving this elephant. Footage from a show in January 2017 illustrates that this same elephant demonstrated the same soreness. Forcing elephants to perform physically challenging tricks, habitually confining them to concrete floors or other hard surfaces, and chaining them for prolonged periods can result in painful foot and joint problems—and denying them an appropriate social and physical environment causes psychological distress. The conditions that the elephants used at your circus are subjected to have a serious negative impact on their health and well-being.

The Jordan World Circus, which produced your show, does not possess an exhibitor’s license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so the animals it uses are leased from outside providers such as the Carden family. Members of this family have been cited for numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including for failing to provide an elephant who had open wounds with proper veterinary care. They also have a history of endangering the public, such as when two elephants escaped from a Shrine circus and ran loose, injuring a child.

These are only a fraction of the serious animal-welfare concerns that have arisen related to the Jordan World Circus and other circus exhibitors over the years. Please read the entirety of this circus’s records as well as those of other animal exhibitors that frequently perform with Shrine circuses.

May we please hear from you as to what action you’ll be taking? Our members await an update. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Rachel Mathews, Esq.

Associate Director

Captive Animal Law Enforcement

Alan Edmonds

Cruelty Case Manager

Animal Protection of New Mexico

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