Top Eight Worst Circuses in the U.S. Revealed: PETA Has the List

Beatings, Chaining, and Abused Elephants Running Amok Are the Norm at Ringling Bros., UniverSoul, Carson & Barnes, and Others

For Immediate Release:
May 11, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va. – What’s the cruelest show on Earth? PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—has the answer in the form of its first-ever list of the Top Eight Worst Circuses in the U.S.:

  1. Ringling Bros., which is notorious for beating elephants with bullhooks—weapons that resemble fireplace pokers with a sharp metal hook on one end—is finally bowing to public pressure to end the use of elephants in its shows by 2018 but has no plans to stop using tigers, lions, zebras, or other animals.
  2. UniverSoul Circus; elephant handler currently faces cruelty charges in Georgia after he was allegedly caught inserting a bullhook into an elephant’s mouth.
  3. Carson & Barnes Circus has a history of dangerous elephant escapes—including last year, when three elephants ran amok for nearly an hour.
  4. Cole Bros. Circus pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act in 2011 and leases animal acts from cruel exhibitors such as Carson & Barnes.
  5. Kelly Miller Circus had an eyewitness testify in 2013 to observing a handler beating an elephant until the animal screamed.
  6. George Carden Circus has a history of leaving elephants to suffer from open wounds—but plans to keep using them in its shows until 2019.
  7. Shrine circuses contract with notorious circuses from across the country, almost all of which have records of neglecting and abusing animals.
  8. Jordan World Circus is one of the last circuses in the U.S. to continue to force bears to perform—sometimes without safe, adequate barriers between them and the public.

“Across the board, animals suffer when they’re beaten into performing circus tricks,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA’s message to families is this: If you care about animals or your children’s safety, you should never buy a ticket to any circus that uses animals.”

For more information, please visit PETA’s blog.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind