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The Cruelest Show on Earth

Beaten mercilessly with steel rods and electric-shock prods. Whipped and shackled in chains. Deprivation of all things natural. Limited access to food, water, and medical care. The screaming and the blood day after day, the punishment is endless. Welcome to hell on earth for animals that are forced to perform.

Three years ago, Ringling Brothers (dubbed “The Cruelest Show on Earth” by animal activists) announced they were eliminating all elephants from their acts. That day marked the beginning of their decent. After 146 years running, they officially shut down last May. And now, as The Aladdin Shrine Circus returns to Columbus at the end of March, the fight for justice is far from over. Aladdin Shrine Circus, and circuses alike, don’t want you - the audience - to know about the abuse that takes place after the curtain falls. So, I’m going to tell you about it.

Many animals are used in circuses including elephants, tigers, lions, and even primates and The Shrine is no different. They claim to love animals enough to make them the star of their show, however behind the curtains, there is nothing that even remotely resembles love. The animals are hostages beaten into submission. They are trained to perform through brutality, abuse, and deprivation. They are forced to perform not because they want to perform, but because they fear what will happen if they don’t. While the US does not require these abusive training sessions to be monitored, undercover investigators have witnessed and documented the abuse and neglect these animals receive routinely, both in training and between performances.

One so called “training device” known as a bullhook, which is a large baton with a sharp steel hook on the end, is used for beating the elephants repeatedly, and is a common practice in training. The trainers are told to hit the animals to make them scream in pain, but to avoid beating them in public. There have also been reports of the use of electric prods, shocking, whipping and kicking the animals, along with tying metal chains around their necks to drag them around.

In addition to this abuse, these animals are confined to tiny, dirty cages for travel of upwards of a thousand miles between performances year after year in all weather conditions. While in transit, they have limited to no access to food, water, or any kind of vet care. Living in these conditions for their entire lives can often lead to severe health problems for the animals, and with little access to vet care, many of their ailments go untreated and result in early deaths.

It's no surprise that animals become aggravated after years of abusive treatment, eventually snapping and becoming a danger to the public and the trainers. Some have managed to escape from the circuses, tearing through buildings, and even injuring or killing trainers. As punishment for this behavior, oftentimes once the animals are recaptured, they are killed for wanting to be free. But - in a sense - maybe these brilliant animals know if they are killed, they will finally be free. Free from the torture that plagued their existence.

As the public's demand for animal-free entertainment rises, more cities are banning (or restricting) animal circuses and the use of bullhooks. Some circuses are even going cruelty-free by removing animals from their show altogether. So, if you still want to enjoy the circus without the cruelty, seek out an animal-free event. In the meantime, The Shrine is coming through Columbus March 23 – 25. It’s not enough for you just to stay away from the event. We need voices to band together and continue fighting for these animals while educating the public that The Cruelest Show on Earth has no support in Columbus.

If you live in the Columbus area, please join a peaceful protest the weekend of March 23rd so The Shrine knows that both their cruelty and abuse are not welcome in our town. Learn More HERE.


With a strong passion and drive to protect the voiceless, Content Manager Stephanie Sopczak contributes to PRANA Run's website content, social media, outreach and fundraising support. If you're interested in a partnership and/or collaboration, contact Stephanie directly:

Elephant in Chains
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