By Michelle Kretzer
Three elephants fled from the Moolah Shrine Circus in St. Charles, Missouri, on Saturday. They were reportedly being used to give children rides and escaped from the riding pen. Witnesses said that loud noises from the circusgoers scared the animals and they fled the building, damaging vehicles in the parking lot before they were captured.
PETA is sending a letter to Shriners International again urging it to protect patrons and animals by holding animal-free circuses.
The incident involving these frightened, frustrated elephants is just another in the long and sordid history of Shrine circuses.
Less than a year ago, a woman who was attending a Shrine circus in Salina, Kansas, came face to face with a loose tiger in the restroom. In 2010, an elephant at a Shrine circus in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, kicked a handler, tossing him approximately 20 feet. The handler sustained multiple traumatic injuries and died at the scene. In 2009, an elephant who was being used to give rides at the Murat Shrine circus in Indianapolis became startled, stumbled, and knocked over the scaffolding stairway leading to the elephant ride, injuring at least 15 children.
Animal exhibitors hired by Shrine circuses also have atrocious records of animal care, including denying suffering animals veterinary attention and physically abusing them. A trainer with Carson & Barnes, the supplier of the elephants who escaped on Saturday, was caught on video viciously beating elephants. And last summer, an eyewitness testified to seeing a Carson & Barnes handler strike an elephant with a bullhook until she screamed.
And some circuses are getting them out of the act. The Los Angeles Shrine circus has announced that after 88 years, it will discontinue using animals. The show will go on, with non-animal rides, games, and carnival treats.
You can thank the L.A. Shrine circus by e-mailing Fred Bernhardt, 116th illustrious potentate of the Al Malaikah Shrine. You can also support PETA’s call to Shriners International to end all use of animals in circuses by e-mailing Imperial Potentate John Cinotto. Video.