Petitioners trying to make circuses an animal-free event

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Across 34 states, there are 109 partial or full bans on performing animals. Two tri-state women have made it their goal to add Evansville to that list.

“These animals are tortured into performing unnatural tricks,” said Sandy Jey, who started the petition. “They undergo inhumane training and barbaric tools to make that happen.”

They say some trainers have been known to use bull hooks and whips to get animals to comply and that the cages they are kept in are too small.

“We’re not just talking about the actual act of making them comply, but the very existence of these animals under the circus framework, like being caged or chained,” added Jey. “Just being confined and being away from whatever’s natural to them – that in itself is abuse.”

“Even just removing a wild animals from the wild should be considered inhumane and is inhumane,” said petitioner Christine Beyer.

They also said that the close proximity of wild animals to people in an audience is a high risk of someone getting hurt. The Hadi Shriners Circus starts on Thanksgiving Day and they say they put a lot of care into how they hand pick their circus acts.

“We produce our own circus, we have for years,” said Dale Thomas of the Hadi Shriners. “What that means is we go out and we hand pick each and everyone of these acts. And when we’re looking at animal acts, we’re looking for how they take care of and care for their animals. When we choose these acts, we like to think with the same caring and compassion into choosing animals acts that we do when we transport and care for the kids that we take care of at our Shriners Children’s Hospitals. I’ve seen how these elephants are treated and how these people baby them in the back.”

Thomas said they do not put up with poor trainers.

“We recently canned an act because they had been – we found out that they had gotten a couple of citations from the USDA and so we decided not to use them,” he added.

The petitioners say they want to promote animal-free circus events, like the Ringling Brothers new show and Cirque du Soleil acts.

“[The Ringling Brothers] were having animal acts in the past, but they are making a comeback as an animal-free circus, so the tide is changing,” said Jey. “So we just need to catch up with that and make sure that we are more animal-friendly and also keeping public safety in mind.”

“You know, Cirque du Soleil is an amazing one – they are so talented,” said Beyer.

Other Tri-Staters are conflicted on the matter.

“I think it’s an old time entertainment event and I think it’s mean to the animals,” said Tony Wissel. “Animals are meant to be in nature, they’re not meant to perform for humans.”

“I would entertain the thought of going to a circus without animals, but that’s a pretty core element of the circus,” said Robert Zimmermann. “So I would have to be enticed with something to make up for the lack of animals. I like seeing animals. I grew up seeing the circus. That’s a part of my childhood that I’d like to pass onto my children too.”

The petitioners have spoken to Councilmember Alex Burton who said he is willing to hear their concerns.

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