Shriners International: Stop Abusing Elephants in Circuses!


Shriners is well-known for its Shriners Hospitals for Children. However, Shriners circus fundraisers are rooted in harm to elephants and other animals. Generally, the money raised from these circuses does not even go to care for children at the hospitals. Raising money from the abuse of elephants and other animals is never justified. Tell Shriners International and Shriners everywhere to stop abusing elephants in circuses now!

Tigers and other animals, as well as elephants, are used in Shriners circuses. Image credit Palmer House Photography, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Shriners International is likely the largest institutional supporter of animal circuses in the United States. Many individual Shriners locations, called “Temples,” hire commercial circuses that use elephants for fundraising. Although no Shrine Temple “owns” elephants, their “Shrine Circuses” support the inherently cruel elephant-abusing commercial circuses year after year. Without Shrine Circuses, it’s likely many animal circuses would go out of business.

Shriners hires circuses that have a history of well-documented elephant abuse and public safety hazards. Undercover investigations at the Carson and Barnes Circus, which has been hired by Shriners in the past, have documented trainers beating elephants with bullhook weapons and shocking them with tasers. One head trainer encouraged new trainers to sink bullhooks into elephants’ flesh and twist the weapon until they started screaming. Following a performance at the Lulu Shrine Circus in May 2018, an elephant named Libby was filmed being beaten and screamed at after she didn’t obey her trainer.

This type of cruelty is unacceptable, and goes directly against the stated mission of the Shriners organization.

Elephants are forced to perform in a 2014 Shriners circus. Image credit Paula R. Lively, CC BY-SA 3.0.

What You Can Do: 

Please contact Shriners International today and ask it to stop paying circuses to abuse elephants!

1) Call Shriners International

Dial 813-281-8162 and when a staff person answers, politely say something like the following:

“Please tell Imperial Potentate John Cain that I respectfully urge Shriners International to lead its membership to adopt a policy that prohibits the use of elephants and other wild animals in circuses for fundraising and any other purpose.”

2) Send our letter by filling out the form on the right side of this page.

Featured image: an elephant performs in a Shriners circus in 2010. Image credit downing.amanda, CC BY-SA 3.0.

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In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 valued supporters and a 30-year history of protecting animals, people and the environment through education, campaigns and hands on rescue facilities in India, Africa, and rural Mississippi. Our main headquarters are established in San Rafael, California. Click to see author's profile.

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