Shriners Under Fire for Bringing Cruelty Back to the Big Top

PETA Calls On Melha Shrine to Recommit to Animal-Free Circus Shows

For Immediate Release:
April 19, 2017

Sophia Charchuk 202-483-7382

Springfield, Mass.

After learning that the Melha Shrine Circus has reneged on its pledge last year to become an animal-free circus, PETA sent a letter this morning urging the Melha Shrine potentate to recommit to the pledge.

In the letter, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that putting animals back into a circus show is drastically out of step with public opinion. As audiences have learned that wild animals suffer when they’re kept captive and forced to perform tricks, drops in ticket sales have plagued both SeaWorld and the soon-to-close Ringling Bros. circus.

“The Melha Shrine Circus and the public alike know that it’s wrong to cage, chain, and force elephants and tigers to perform under the threat of violence,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA is calling on the Melha Shriners to find their missing consciences and make good on their word to stick to willing human performers.”

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PETA’s letter to Melha Shrine Potentate Raymond Turrini follows.

April 19, 2017

Raymond Turrini

Melha Shrine

Dear Mr. Turrini,

PETA is shocked that the Melha Shrine Circus has reneged on its commitment, made hardly a year ago, to be animal-free and is putting animals back into its shows—a move that is drastically out of step with public opinion. Elephants and tigers do not belong in your circus, just as Shrine clowns do not belong in the jungle.

Last year, the ringmaster said that the circus’s decision to end animal acts was made, at least in part, “to keep up with modern times.” That was the right decision: Public support for animal performances is eroding as people become more aware of the cruelty inherent in keeping animals captive and coercing them to perform tricks.

The evidence of this is all around: Ringling Bros. circus announced that it will close in May after a long drop in ticket sales, and SeaWorld’s profits and attendance continue to decline severely. SeaWorld’s CEO, Joel Manby, even admitted that the public’s “attitudinal change” prompted the park’s decision last year to stop breeding more orcas to hold captive and use in shows.

Reinstating animal acts in the hope of bringing in more money not only is misguided but also flies in the face of the Melha Shriners’ mission to foster “the perpetuation of moral values.” There is nothing moral about how animals used in circuses are beaten and whipped to force them to perform and kept chained and caged in between shows. Georgina Donoho—under whose license your slated big-cat exhibitor Vincent Von Duke operates—has been cited for failing to provide animals with a veterinarian-approved diet and for keeping lions and tigers inside enclosures so small that they couldn’t even make “normal postural movements” or comfortably turn around.

As leaders in your community, Melha Shriners have a responsibility to do the right thing. We urge you to recommit to being animal-free. Thank you for your careful consideration.

Yours sincerely,

John Di Leonardo, M.S.

Senior Campaigner, Animals in Entertainment

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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