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Shrine Circuses: Where Animal Exploitation Takes Center Ring

Dec 15, 2022

For over 100 years, several Shrine circuses have made a spectacle out of exploiting sensitive and intelligent animals, including elephants, tigers, and bears who were taken from their mothers as babies to be subjected to a lifetime of suffering. Yet Shriners International hasn’t ended these cruel events, which some Shrine temples continue to host.

Animals forced to perform in Shrine circuses live under the constant threat of being hit with bullhooks—sharp steel-tipped implements that resemble a fireplace poker—whips, and other weapons. Damning video footage of violence at these circuses and abuse during “training” abounds, including of an exhibitor directing trainers to sink and twist bullhooks into elephants’ skin to “make them scream.”
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