Weekly Top 10

About PETA Prime Are you ready to make a big difference for yourself, animals, and the Earth through simple day-to-day choices? PETA Prime has all the information you need to live a healthy, humane, and rewarding life.

PETA Business Friends


  • May
  • 20

Your Attention Please: How Can We Stop the Circus?

Posted by at 5:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (38)

christy-and-kerry-circus-protestTwenty years ago, when we first started protesting the abuse of animals in the circus, getting media attention was simple. Animal rights protests were so new that it only took a handful of us with protest signs to get interviews and coverage on all the local news stations. Over the years, we have had to get more and more creative in order to reach the masses with our message that animals do not belong in the circus.

You might have heard people say that the animals in the circus are trained using “positive reinforcement.” But the sad truth is that for animals in circuses, there is no such thing as positive reinforcement–only different types of punishment and deprivation. Trainers use bullhooks, whips, sticks, electric prods, and other tools that intentionally cause pain and injury in order to force animals to perform. Undercover footage of training shows that elephants were beaten with bullhooks and shocked with electric prods. Big cats were dragged by heavy chains around their neck and hit with sticks. Bears were whacked and prodded with long poles, and chimpanzees were kicked and hit with riding crops.

Think about it: Do animals voluntarily ride bicycles, stand on their heads, or jump through rings of fire? I don’t think so. They only perform these tricks because they’re afraid of what will happen if they don’t.
Circuses easily get away with routine abuse because no government agency monitors training sessions. So we have tried various ways of bringing attention to the issue of extremely cruel and inhumane circuses.

For years, we were able to get away with dressing like clowns and handing coloring-book flyers to the busloads of children and parents. The children stood in line to get the circus coloring books. We were seen as just a part of the fun. Eventually, the circus sponsors caught on, and they started meeting the kids right at the buses and whisking them away from us.

Last year, a brave local activist chained himself to the arena doors and delivered a beautiful speech about the abuse of animals in the circus, but he was arrested. We have so far not been successful with meeting with the Shriners directly or getting our mayor and City Council to ban animal acts, so we continue to leaflet, write letters to the editor, and protest the circus every time it comes to town.

The laws where we live in Spokane, Washington, have gotten pretty strict. We are required to get a permit and stand on the sidewalk on the far side of the parking lot. This does not present much opportunity for leafleting or interaction with the circus crowd.

One of our local activists, Kelly, is an ex-circus clown who dresses up and rides a high-rise unicycle. Often, the children come running when they see Kelly doing his tricks, and we are able to engage with circusgoers.

What do you think? What else can we do? Are there other ways to try and reach the public that we haven’t thought of?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Jeaneen says:

    I have never gone to a Circus thankfully and now will never go. I wonder how people knowing what these animals go through can still go, what are they soulless.

  • Alecia Moore says:

    Spokane could have an organization that meets monthly and heavily publicizes themself on multiple media fronts. People want to get involved, but don’t know where to start… especially new comers. Now there is a public group for protesting entertainment animals. But what about factory farming, slaughter trucks, hunting regulations, animal labs. There needs ro be one easily found source for people interested to contact.

  • Kayla says:

    Baby Barack, an elephant being tortured during his training for “entertainment” at Barnum and Bailey’s “conservation center” was named after Pres. Barack Obama. We should appeal to the White House in our efforts to eliminate the use of animals in circuses, or at the very least the binding and beating of elephants, in this case a baby. Request: Please save Baby Barack from the Circus and set an example of compassion! I would love to see Obama rescue this beautiful baby to be sent to a true sanctuary.

  • Marta Hoyos says:

    Se deben hacer leyes para prohibir los animales en toda clase de espectáculo público.

  • Debra says:

    I use to go to the circus when I was a kid the school gave out tickets to the students so we could go . It was free and at the time it was fun . I am older now and if I had childern I would not allow them to go . The cruelty that is used on the animals is sick!!!! They wonder why the elephants sometimes go on rampages and kill thier trainers , well if someone was beating you with hooks and sticks you might want to get rid of that person too!!! The Circus is very cruel to all the animals not just the elephants . Some of them die in horrible conditions and then there carcuses are just discarded . Please if you know of anyone who thinks this is entertaiment just show them some of the videos from Dateline, 20/20 or 60 minutes they show under cover videos of what really goes on behind the scences . So it is not just PETA it is others to that are incensed by what is happening in the circus If you want your family to see a really good showw take them to Cirque de sol !!!! Now that is real entertaiment and no animals are harmed . Please take a second look at the rodeos to they are cruel to animals too !!!!! Thankyou for letting me sound off . Debra totaly against the circus and rodeos

  • PB says:

    I used to take my son to the circus years ago but when I found out they abuse the animals I was not going to pay to watch this so I told my son we could not go no more cause by going we are paying them to abuse the animals that they use. That was after I seen a documentary on how they used electric poles to control the elephants.

  • Sandra Deneault says:

    What about driving around in your cars with a poster on the back window???I would if it would come to montreal.
    Giving posters at the nearest shopping center (Near SEARS) Leaving posters on cars…..Local radio?
    Getting addresses of people who come from the circus and send them the infos? I wish I would have the answer…
    This will stop soon….

  • Ombretta says:

    ..Have you any contact with italian associations that work against this horrible habit, i.e. considering animals in circus as a show where to go with childrens?????
    In Europe every year we assist at a “Festival of Circus” sponsorised by.. PRINCE OF MONACO , broadcasted in EUROVISION by all the TV….
    Thanks and kind regards.

  • Tess says:

    Many people are being educated by watching Animal Planet. If Animal Planet did a documentry on circus animals; millions of viewers would become informed. Additionally, PBS, 20/20 and dateline would also reach many viewers.

    Former circus employeed could go on The Today show or Opra. Opra did a very informative show to educate people on puppymills and farm animals. Her show helped pass a bill in CA to improve the lifestyle for farm animals. Petitions are always good.

  • Roshana says:

    If you want a ban on the use of animals in circusses… you will need to inform politicians and the majer of the cities where circusses ‘perform’ about the animal-abuse and cruelty….and Ask them to put a STOP on it!
    And send them PETITIONS against the use of animals by the circus.
    Also send your undercover video’s to the local TV-stations and radio-stations… of cites where circusses are ‘performing’…

    Another clever way to inform children about the animal-cruelty by circusses is to involve the local schools in cities where circusses are ‘peforming’.

  • Judith says:

    The Jane Goodall Institute has initiated the “No Great Apes in Entertainment” pledge. Join in the effort by signing the pledge at http://www.janegoodall.org/CaptivePrimatesAct

    Urge others to do the same by directing them to the link and share on as many social networks as possible. 5,396 signatures so far.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am hoping that there will be no circus some day. I do not like to watch animals being put through acts they are not born to be put through. Then to be chained up all day with that thing clamped to their foot, what else do they have to endure oh yes, then the zoo people make the females get pregnant what else who knows. It is not fair.

  • msraems says:

    Oprah and Ellen have done many shows to support animal welfare. Write to them online and ask them to please cover this topic.

  • Manuel Fernando Barrera Rodriguez says:

    Hello dear PETA friends:

    My humble opinon is that as far as the human beings keep on using the monetary sistem, I mean the evil “god”money, this kind of things are going to exist as far as we keep on using this evil system that is killing all kind of life world wide. I think humankin must look for an alternative system that doesn´t kill life on our beautiful planet. Kind regards.

  • cath ens says:

    There are still a few things to do to help stop the animal acts in circuses, without the worry of being whisked away to some foreign country to be tortured! (and if it IS as bad as that, then we may as well go out and do as much as we can, because our liberty is being taken from us and we may as well go out in a blaze of glory!) Anyway, to the situation at hand. We sometimes buy space in the press. A small well presented ad (you can ask the readers for donations to help offset the cost) in a local paper a few days before the circus; it does get attention and helps. Or if you have a bit more money, a billboard, near the arena where the circus takes place will also remind people. I’ve heard about an interesting idea – put on a traffic vest and stand by the drive in at the parking lot – it’s amazing how many people will stop when you look somewhat official and take the leaflets…even if they still attend the circus, you never know that you might have planted a seed. Try to get in to the local schools to present your point of view (if you have a child at the school, of course this helps). Talk to your child’s teachers. Many times the circus gives away free tickets to local businesses,,,you might be able to get your hands on one or two and attend the circus where you can make your feelings known …. Don’t do anything illegal – just use your imagination!

  • Amber says:

    I used to take my son to the circus years ago but when I found out they abuse the animals I was not going to pay to watch this so I told my son we could not go no more cause by going we are paying them to abuse the animals that they use. That was after I seen a documentary on how they used electric poles to control the elephants.

  • Charlotte says:

    A video is worth a million words. We have the video footage available. How do we get it on mobile DVD players to activists who will use them?

    What ever happened to those wearable body screens that I used to see at PeTA demos?

    I’ve done at least a dozen circus demos in northern and southern California, as well as in Dallas/Fort Worth. We have plenty of signs and plenty of leaflets, but video would make a huge impact.

  • Norma Gialet says:

    I don’t know how they did it but here in Canada several of the rodeos were forced to stop some of the events, like calf roping, mostly I think from public pressure. If pictures of this abuse was televised or put on the internet it would cause more awareness and maybe wake the public up. I myself was not aware of this situation. Are all other animal welfare organization aware? They could help get the word out. Good luck!
    Norma in British Columbia, Canada

  • SUSAN says:


  • maria fernanda artica says:

    please stop the circus…..don’t be so mean have a little compation with the animals

  • Pamela Lavine says:

    I never knew of the haneous beatings and “training” techniques used on circus animals untill I watched the video provided by PETA. Now I know and am responsible to tell what I saw to others. Oprah, Ellen, Tyra; these women could help put the truth into the homes of millions of people.
    I refuse to attend the circus that uses animals.

  • Gary says:

    Two suggestions:
    1) Petition, in person, the individual members of the Boards of Directors of Corporate Sponsors.
    2) Lobby/Petition, in person, the entertainment industry Unions to Bar/Ban their Members from working on shows.
    The circus depends on the services of many Unions to work certain venues. (is: Stagehands Union, Lighting/Tech Unions, Teamsters, etc.). We recently saw how one Union can halt production on major tee vee Networks.
    If there are Union problems promoters won’t schedule the show.
    In a Nutshell… Go after the $$$.
    Thank Y’all for asking, and…
    in Tampa

  • Vasu Murti says:

    Leading Protestant theologian, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, taught: “We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also.”

    Schweitzer opposed the use of animals in entertainment. “I never go to a menagerie,” he once wrote, “because I cannot endure the sight of the misery of the captive animals. The exhibiting of trained animals I abhor. What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure to give a few minutes of pleasure to men devoid of all thought and feeling for them.”

  • Lisa says:

    Wear informative, anti-circus t-shirts and carry the matching canvas bag while you stroll around. Have literature to hand out should anyone ask about your silent protest.

    There will always be people that really don’t care about the pain and suffering of others, but many would – if they knew about it. Big businesses pay a lot of money to snow the public into believing what they want, if they knew the truth, most people would do something about it.

  • Amy says:

    Perhaps a regular ran “educational” section in our newspapers, via on line and in print would get the word out more. I often wonder why we do not see such articles in our media..

  • Sherrie Stangel says:

    Shame on you. Be a hero step up and do the right thing, you know what you are doing is wrong Dont you? Miss treating anamils IS WRONG. Do you think they like what they are doing? Do you?!

  • tiffany says:

    If it’s really so hard to get the cruel facts about circus publicized, then let people who want to go to the circus win free tickets to the circus if they answer correctly all the behind-the-scene facts you want them to know. Think of the ticket price as a means to educate people. And I doubt how many people will still go after learning all the facts. It must be stunning for people to know that PETA is giving free tickets and words will spread fast.

  • Sandra Deneault says:

    How about trying OPRAH..
    she went nation wide on poisonned food which
    killed thousands of animals..
    I always carry posters that I print and place them on billboards in public areas. At any time of the year a constant reminder to who may see my poster is so important to me, I can’t wait
    to see the circuses VANISH FOR EVER…

  • Talysha says:

    Since allot of teenagers go to the circus and have younger siblings that go to the circus you could put up leaflets and papers on buliten boards at high schools, so they would read the information and stop going themselves and stop their siblings from going.

  • sandra m says:

    Animal rights issues have to be included, to a greater extent, in our popular culture. The internet is powerful of course. But, tv and movies still define reality for many people. A soap opera plot line that has a family in conflict over visiting the circus, a prime time doctor show where the characters fight about using animals in research. Hollywood, are you listening?

  • Bonnie Bonsor says:

    I must be an echo for Sweetsieboy’s articulate and impassioned comment above. And – I think in a way, his concept of a downturn in the economy being a rightfully earned “correction” to our own unjustified and selfish cruelties – may just be coming true! I always find it a somewhat comforting, if ironic, realization that the witless and shallow attitudes of those who think the Earth and everything in it “belongs” to human beings – are now being brought down a peg by the economic disaster we are now tumbling into. The people who find cruelty entertaining and “necessary” – will have to do without many things their poor, empty minds have been accustomed to….and one of the things that would help a lot is for everyone to be put in a position where their priorities MUST change….not that they just should change, but that to survive, they MUST change.
    The circus animals, the laboratory research animals, the homeless and abandoned animals, are all reflections of a sad kind of egotism that a great deal of our western society embraces. So many people have no idea of how the world really works – or the things that happen in it that would horrify them were they to be completely aware. So they stay ignorant in order to keep enjoying the fruits of the cruelty – I.E. the circus.

    This is my suggestion: (And I do agree with Sweestieboy that the rendition possibility is there). One thing that always makes people think and react, is to have it put right in front of their faces. If I could, I would put together a flyer with maybe two photos of something horrific and unsettling happening to an animal in the circus. Add an address at the bottom where people can send their letters to protest the cruelty to the circus themselves – and hand them out to the crowd as they go into the coliseum – then leave hastily. It would be a small gesture – but you’d be surprised how much it would ruin their circus experience and make them think about what is actually happening to the aninmals they are watching.

    Just a thought.

  • K.B. says:

    Sweetsieboy, great post! I totally agree.


    Do You at least know how the elephants “dance” in circus? How the lions are beated until loose their bones? Would you like to be born a circus animal? No? So, STOP CIRCUS ANIMALS SUFFERING AND SAVE THEIR LIVES!

  • Kristine says:

    it seems that the larger circus have been using corporate sponsors. Example: Ringling Bros. & Sears.
    Have these sponsors been approached about the negative publicity they could receive because of their misguided sponsorship?
    I don’t think anyone in this economy could afford that.

  • Tucker says:

    SAVE THE ANIMALS, STOP THE CIRCUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Tucker says:

    AND START HELPING TO SAVE THESE ANIMALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    IT WILL STOP, JUST HOPFULLY SOONER THAN LATER, BUT IT WILL STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • sweetsieboy says:

    I used to happily go to such protests and it was fun to see the media pick up on them and place them in the news during the initial novelty of animal rights protests, and then the Bush administration made sure that such activity could be considered an act of terrorism by the state.

    As it stands, and this is going to sound so over the top, one can get involved with such activities and be targeted by the authorities, renditioned to one of the manned and ready to go 600 FEMA camps (or worse – black ops sites all over the globe) throughout these United States, questioned, tortured, held indefinitely without access to rights previously guaranteed under existing US constitutional law, and if one is finally released, one can be told they must say nothing of the incident, or suffer the consequences.

    I am not saying all of this to stop people from going to protests, for most would never suffer such a horrific scenario, but some have, I promise you, and some are being held right now in such conditions. I am so sorry that I have no creative examples of other things to do to further this good cause, but I just don’t right now. I am completely convinced that the change we so desperately seek will require the downfall of the current despotic system we find ourselves in right now, and out of the ashes of that failed system will come many changes for the good, including how humanity treats animals. It is for this very reason that I look intently forward to the severe downturn in this consumer-based economy that has a ridiculously high carbon footprint, something that is far more dangerous to all life on earth, including the circus animals.

    It is my firm belief that we must suffer, to some degree anyway, the consequences of our collective behavior. It won’t be about punishment, even though selfish souls will see it that way. It will be about simple correction that happens in nature when a species gets out of balance. We (humanity) just don’t seem to get it through our thick skulls any other way but to actually feel the pain we so needlessly impose upon the rest of the plant and animal kingdom that has just as much right to this planet as we do.

    You want to do something creative and a bit scary, but brave? Pray for a severe downturn of the US and world economy, even though it won’t be easy for us personally. If you really care about animals, all animals, than anything that can slow down/stop the utterly unsustainable use of natural resources is worth going through, for the sake of the many. Sorry, but protests are not going to get this done. This Mall of America consumerism religion must crash and burn first, humbling the many, and then there will come a more spontaneous concern for others after experiencing some of the pain we so thoughtlessly put so many animals and other humans in poor nations through while thinking stupid thoughts like God favors America…. This type of insanity has a crisis point – let it be here and now. Let’s gidder dun and get past this bizarre insanity once and for all time now!!!!!

    Love/Light, Sweetsieboy

About Family & Friends

Make your time with your friends and family—including your animal companions—even more meaningful.

Recent Comments


The information and views provided here are intended for informational and preliminary educational purposes only. From time to time, content may be posted on the site regarding various financial planning and human and animal health issues. Such content is never intended to be and should never be taken as a substitute for the advice of readers' own financial planners, veterinarians, or other licensed professionals. You should not use any information contained on this site to diagnose yourself or your companion animals' health or fitness. Readers in need of applicable professional advice are strongly encouraged to seek it. Except where third-party ownership or copyright is indicated or credited regarding materials contained in this blog, reproduction or redistribution of any of the content for personal, noncommercial use is enthusiastically encouraged.