Members of Voices for Animals say circus animals spend about 11 months a year traveling, chained up and isolated. But a circus spokesman says the animals are well cared for.
Voices for Animals is hoping a video will stop people from going to the circus next week, and an online petition asking the John Paul Jones Arena to ditch hosting the circus company has almost 200 supporters.
"The tools of the training include bullhooks, which are similar to fireplace pokers and electric prods. Animals are beaten, they are isolated. Highly social animals are isolated,” said Wendy Harper, a member of Voices for Animals.
If the video doesn't stop people from attending, Harper hopes the group's protest will. They will stand outside the arena next Thursday and Saturday.
"This is a really compassionate, wonderful community and I don't think this cruel, dark industry has any place or should have any place in our community,” Harper said.
The Ringling Bros. vice president of communications, Stephen Payne, says the animals are well cared for and loved. "We're very proud of our animal care, our commitment to conservation for the endangered Asian elephant and really the ability we have to bring world-class entertainment and our animals to show the human-animal bond,” he said.
The petition claims the animals are forced to stand in their own waste and tolerate extreme temperatures.
"We disagree completely with their claims, with their tactics and we hope the Charlottesville area community will come out and see for themselves,” Payne said.
We reached out to the John Paul Jones Arena to ask if it would honor the petition. In an email, the general manager said the circus is a tradition in “communities around the world and we are pleased to be hosting it again next week.”
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will be at John Paul Jones Arena May 1 through May 4.
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