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Freemasonry Watch

PETA asks FT. Worth TX to halt Shriner Circus

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PETA Media Center


For Immediate Release:
November 7, 2005

Lisa Wathne 757-622-7382

Fort Worth, Texas --- This morning, PETA sent an urgent letter to Will Rogers Memorial Center Assistant Director Chris Harmon, warning him that the upcoming Shrine Circus is both dangerous and cruel and urging him not to host circuses such as the Shrine Circus in the future. PETA points out that since 1997, there have been at least 10 dangerous incidents—including one this past January—involving animals used in Shrine Circuses.

This past January, a trainer was stomped to death by an elephant used in a Shrine Circus in Fort Wayne, Ind. In 2002 and again in 2003, elephants bolted from the Shrine Circus tents and went on rampages in Wisconsin and Michigan, respectively. In other incidents at Shrine Circuses, a circusgoer was bitten on the face by a chimpanzee, the tip of a 2-year-old girl’s finger was bitten off by a bear, and a tiger who had been allowed near children later killed two people.

It should come as no surprise that elephants and other animals sometimes snap and attack trainers and members of the public. PETA has obtained shocking video footage of a circus trainer violently attacking elephants with steel-tipped bullhooks as the animals scream and recoil in pain. The head trainer instructs the other handlers to make sure that such beatings are always severe and never carried out in public view. Big cats and bears are often beaten into performing and are "stored" in barren cages when they’re not being used.

Contrary to popular belief, Shrine Circuses raise funds for the temples’ administrative costs, not for the Shriners children’s hospitals. The Shrine produces circuses by either hiring an existing circus or putting together a collection of animal exhibitors, acrobats, and other acts that perform under the Shrine Circus name.

"Wherever there’s a circus with animals, you’ll find bullhooks, whips, electric prods, and other implements of torture," says PETA Captive Exotic Animal Specialist Lisa Wathne. "It’s usually just a matter of time before these frustrated and deprived animals lash out. The Shrine needs to get out of the circus business."

For more information, please visit PETA’s Web site Circuses.com.

PETA’s letter to Assistant Director Chris Harmon follows.

November 7, 2005

Chris Harmon, Assistant Director
Will Rogers Memorial Center
3401 W. Lancaster St.
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Dear Mr. Harmon:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is a nonprofit organization with more than 850,000 members and supporters dedicated to animal protection. We are writing to alert you to disturbing information concerning the Shrine Circus, which is scheduled to perform at the Coliseum from November 11 to 19. We ask that you consider the important information contained in this letter and make the compassionate decision not to host the Shrine Circus—or any circus with animal acts—on your property in the future.

Shrine Circuses put people at serious risk by exposing them to dangerous animals. Elephants used in Shrine Circuses have rampaged, causing injuries to circusgoers and killing handlers. This past January, a trainer working for the Shrine Circus in Fort Wayne, Ind., was stomped to death as he loaded elephants into a trailer. In 2003, an elephant at the Shrine Circus in Muskegon, Mich., escaped from a tent and fled into a busy downtown area. In 2002, two elephants with the Shrine Circus in Dunn County, Wis., bolted out of a circus tent, scattering frightened circusgoers.

Elephants are not the only dangerous animals used by Shrine Circuses. A circusgoer attending the Shrine Circus in Evansville, Ind., last December was reportedly hospitalized after being bitten on the face by a chimpanzee. A tiger who had been walked on a leash near children during Shrine Circuses killed two handlers. And a bear with the Shrine Circus in Grand Rapids, Mich., bit off the tip of a child’s finger.

Shrine-sponsored circuses have deplorable records of U.S. Department of Agriculture violations, including failure to provide veterinary care, adequate shelter, nutritious food, and clean water, as well as failure to handle animals in a manner that prevents trauma and ensures public safety.

Beatings and extreme confinement are a part of everyday life for animals in circuses. The enclosed video shows a circus trainer viciously attacking and shocking elephants behind the scenes. Trainers are instructed to hurt the elephants until they scream and to sink sharp metal bullhooks into their flesh and twist them back and forth.

We hope you agree that this abuse is unacceptable and must be stopped. I would be happy to answer any questions or supply additional information. You can contact me at 757-622-7382. I look forward to your reply.


Lisa Wathne, Captive Exotic Animal Specialist

Enclosures: "Circus Elephants: Training and Tragedy" video
Shrine Circus factsheet

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