Stop Pouring State Funds Into Elephant Abuse, PETA Urges Gov. Evers

For Immediate Release:
August 24, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Madison, Wis.

Ahead of next month’s budget requests, PETA sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers this morning urging him to block the Wisconsin Historical Society from using any taxpayer dollars to fund cruel, outdated animal acts at Circus World Museum. Last year, $873,903—or 82% of Circus World’s revenue—came from state taxpayers.

PETA points out that Circus World uses elephant acts provided by Carson & Barnes Circus, whose head trainer was caught on video instructing other trainers to sink a bullhook—a weapon resembling a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end—into elephants’ flesh and twist it until the animals screamed. A PETA investigation also revealed that Circus World exploited geriatric elephants in shows twice a day—every day—despite their foot problems.

“Circus World forces elephants—including elderly animals with apparent joint problems and swollen feet—to perform painful, unnatural, and stupid tricks under the threat of violence,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is calling on Gov. Evers to end taxpayer handouts to animal abusers.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Evers follows.

August 24, 2022

The Honorable Tony Evers
Governor of Wisconsin

Dear Gov. Evers:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals U.S.—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally, including more than 85,000 in Wisconsin—regarding next month’s deadline for budget requests. Although the public is turning away from circuses that still use live animals and businesses that exploit wild animals are shutting down or going animal-free, taxpayer funds are giving Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, a financial lifeline to continue abusing animals. I do not use that term lightly, as I will explain. You have the opportunity to help end elephant abuse in your state by making it clear in your policy directives that Wisconsin Historical Society funds are not to be used to pay for live-animal acts. 

Circus World—operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society and funded largely by state taxes—hires notoriously abusive companies for its live-animal acts, such as Carson & Barnes Circus, which has been cited for over 100 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Its head trainer was caught on video instructing trainers to sink sharp steel-tipped bullhooks into elephants’ flesh and twist until the animals scream. Last year, a PETA investigator documented that Circus World was forcing geriatric elephants to perform grueling tricks twice a day, every day, while they suffered from chronically swollen feet and showed clear signs of other painful foot and joint problems.

Elephants—like other wild animals used in circuses—are often taken from their mothers as infants and subjected to immense suffering to compel them under the threat of punishment to perform confusing and even painful tricks. Because of this constant mistreatment, elephants and other wild animals sometimes can’t endure the suffering, lash out in frustration, and have been involved in dozens of incidents resulting in human injuries, deaths, and significant property damage. In fact, an elephant connected with Carson & Barnes recently left a visitor disabled and disfigured, and another elephant escaped from Circus World, endangering the public.

Funding for the Wisconsin Historical Society is supposed to be used to preserve history, but preserving history means admitting hard truths. And the truth here is that Circus World is perpetuating animal abuse as well as a disregard and disrespect for elephants. There are far better uses for tax dollars. Please consider righting a historical wrong by making sure the Wisconsin Historical Society doesn’t use its funding for animal acts. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk

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