Will the Shrine Circus Feature Suffering Elephants?

After Recent Footage Revealed Distressed and Lame Elephants, PETA Calls for This Weekend’s Circus Performances to Be Animal-Free

For Immediate Release:
March 1, 2017

David Perle 202-483-7382

Based on video footage showing an elephant at a recent performance of a Shrine circus in New Mexico rocking and swaying in apparent distress backstage—and another exhibiting signs of painful lameness after being used for rides—PETA sent a letter this morning calling on the Kerak Shriners to ensure that their circus shows this weekend will not feature animal acts.

In the letter, PETA notes that forcing elephants to perform tricks and keeping them chained and confined to 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 New Mexico Shrine circus and will reportedly do the same for the Reno 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 Kerak Shriners to take a stand against cruelty by featuring only talented human performers and no captive animals in this weekend’s circus shows.”

If the Shriners proceed with the animal acts this weekend, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—will protest the circus’s opening night on Friday, March 3, at 6 p.m. outside the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center (located at 1350 N. Wells Ave., Reno).

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to Michael J. Fox, potentate of the Kerak Shriners, follows.

March 1, 2017

Michael J. Fox, Potentate

Kerak Shriners

Dear Mr. Fox,

I’m writing on behalf of PETA regarding the upcoming performances of the Jordan World Circus, hosted by your shrine. This circus is traveling with elephants whose signs of stress and pain were recently documented. I urge you to consider the following facts carefully and consider at least requiring that the scheduled performance of your upcoming circus go forward without animals.

Video footage taken February 11 from the New Mexico Shrine Circus 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 by circuses are subjected to have a serious negative impact on their health and well-being.

The Jordan World Circus, which will also be producing 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 I 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

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