University’s Circus Relics Collection Prompts PETA Gift Offer

Will Illinois State University Accept Disturbing Display Items Showing Neglect, Abuse of Animals Forced to Perform?

For Immediate Release:
January 9, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Normal, Ill.

Illinois State University recently received a sizable donation of circus relics for its Circus and Allied Arts collection, so this morning, PETA sent a letter offering to round out the collection with display items that provide accurate representations of what really happens in circuses that use animals—from the whip to the electric shock prod, from the cramped cage to the shackles used to chain elephants in place behind the big top.

In the letter, PETA also offers to donate a bullhook—a weapon resembling a fireplace poker with a sharp hook on one end that’s used to beat elephants into submission after they’re taken from their mothers—and a bottle of Wonder Dust, which circuses use to conceal elephants’ bloody bullhook wounds, typically behind their ears and knees. Other items on offer include a multimedia display complete with actual historical images, including photographs of baby elephants tied down by all fours and beaten by Ringling Bros. circus; video footage of Carson & Barnes Circus’ head trainer yelling, “Make ’em scream!” and to “hurt ’em” while attacking a screaming elephant with a bullhook; and U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports revealing that circuses abuse animals and routinely violate federal laws.

“No collection of circus memorabilia is complete without bullhooks and federal rap sheets,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Rachel Mathews. “PETA wants to help Illinois State University present an accurate depiction of the circus, and that includes its long and shameful history of violence to animals.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that circuses that use and abuse animals are well on their way to the history books. Illinois was the first state to ban all traveling elephant acts, the Illinois-based circus exhibitor Hawthorn Corporation recently closed, and Ringling Bros. shut down in 2017 after 146 years.

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