Animal Lovers Oppose Animal Abuse at UniverSoul Circus | Commentary
Sunday night animal advocacy group Animal Allies of Western New York completed a three day protest of UniverSoul Circus. The circus was set up in the University at Buffalo parking lot and ran from Thursday, July 7th to Sunday, July10th. Animal Allies of WNY were on site to educate the public about the suffering endured by animals performing at UniverSoul Circus.
UniverSoul Circus does not possess an exhibitor license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The animals are leased from outside companies, including Tarzan Zerbini Circus, Carson & Barnes Circus, Kay Rosaire, Bucky Steele, Rosaire-Zoppe Chimps, and Mitchel Kalmanson. UniverSoul-leased animal exhibitors have failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The USDA has cited UniverSoul exhibitors for failure to provide veterinary care, medical records, and adequate space and failure to properly maintain transport vehicles.
Recently in 2010, Boston's Northeastern University canceled UniverSoul Circus' performance after reviewing a formal letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals addressed to the USDA, which criticized the circus for failing to provide necessary veterinary care. UniverSoul Circus exhibitors have been cited numerous times before by the USDA.
Animal care director, Tim Frisco, of UniverSoul elephant exhibitor Carson & Barnes was videotaped viciously attacking elephants until they scream in pain and instructing other elephant trainers to "Sink that hook into them," "Hurt ’em" and "Make ’em scream.” (Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2KEjdcceng&)
A statement release by Universoul stated, "In over 17 years and more than 8,000 performances, none of our animal vendors have ever been cited for animal abuse while performing at the UniverSoul Circus. We work closely with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that our commitment to a high standard of animal care is upheld".
Recent videos have surfaced which speak to the realities of the confinement and treatment of animals leased by UniverSoul. Several videos were recorded this week alone, showing UniverSoul Circus animals suffering right here in Buffalo. One of the videos, taken July 5th, shows a tiger languishing in pain, with his paw smashed in a cage door on a transport vehicle. Other videos depict elephants and tigers exhibiting stereotypic behaviors, including repetitive pacing and kicking. These behaviors are not witnessed in the wild, and are regarded by animal behaviorists as clear signs of distress.
Sunday afternoon, after hearing workers yelling behind a barricade erected around the tiger cages, activists hurried with cameras in hand to investigate the commotion. Video was then recorded, showing one of the handlers hitting and jabbing tigers with what appears to be a broomstick. (Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ljSPCWewGM)
Questions were raised by some, concerning the motivation behind protests of UniverSoul, a black owned, black operated circus. One passerby stated, "I'm not trying to play the race card or anything, but there are all these white people in front of a black circus...We didn't see them when Barnum & Bailey was here."
The concerns of the passerby were echoed by many who stopped and talked to the protesters. Activists themselves acknowledged the racial tension. One protester stated, "I'm not a bigot... This protest is about the animals.” The activists completely denied any racial motivation for the protest, citing another three day protest they held in March outside the Shrine Circus at the Erie County Fairgrounds.
"This is strictly a matter of ethics and our opposition of cruelty to animals. If UniverSoul didn’t use animal acts, we would be the first in line buying tickets,” stated Morgan Dunbar, director of Animal Allies of WNY. “UniverSoul’s philosophy of promoting diversity and an appreciation of cultures through their Russian, Chinese, South African and American acts is wonderful. This circus doesn’t need to exploit animals to make sales.”
The Erie County SPCA and national animal advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are now conducting investigations of UniverSoul after being provided the videos recorded here in Buffalo.