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Shriners International—an organization with chapters around the world—claims to be "dedicated to brotherhood, compassion and service to others," so you'd think that it would have no problem urging its chapters to leave animal circuses out of their fundraising plans. But despite hearing that animals in circuses are beaten and deprived of everything that's natural and important to them, they refuse to take a stand. Now, we need your help to urge Shriners International to ask its members to drop animal acts from their events.
In a new Shrine circus animal-welfare report, an animal-behavior expert noted that, while circus trainers, ringmasters, and staff claim that the animals perform tricks through rewards and trust, "what actually occurs is environmental and physiological neglect, psychological abuse, and coercing the animals to behave through dominance and fear-based techniques."
In the following video, compiled from footage of several Shrine circuses, an elephant is jabbed with a bullhook (a sharp steel-tipped weapon resembling a fireplace poker), a tiger is whipped in the face, a bear urinates on herself while being forced to do a handstand, and many other animals suffer in despair.
Animals forced to perform in circuses live under the constant threat of pain from bullhooks, whips, electric prods, or tight collars. At a recent Tangier Shrine Circus show, an exhibitor was caught on video striking an elephant named Megu in the face with a bullhook. Circus trainers exploit the animals' natural desire to avoid pain in order to make them balance on balls, spin on pedestals, walk on two legs, and ride bicycles. After the shows are over, they're often chained up inside cramped cages, unable to move freely.
The Shriners' continued use of animals—especially after the closure of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus—shows how out of step they are with the shifting tide of public opinion. Circus acts featuring only willing human performers are captivating audiences, while archaic, cruel animal acts are on the decline. The Orillia Shrine Club abandoned its longtime circus and instead held an Oktoberfest fundraiser, and the Shriners of Rochester, New York, and Columbus-Fort Benning, Georgia, dropped their circuses after more than 80 years because they were losing money.
Tell Shriners International that you won't support it until it drops the cruelty.