According to the animal rights group PETA, UniverSoul Circus, an American circus that traditionally used animals, will stop using any animals in its performances. This circus has animal acts involving zebras, camels, and other wild and exotic animals. However, UniverSoul’s most recent tour stops in Washington, D.C., and New York City already featured no live-animal acts.
Ingrid Newkirk, PETA President, said in a statement, “UniverSoul’s decision to stop exploiting animals sends a message to industry holdouts that cruelty doesn’t belong under the big top in the 21st century. PETA thanks UniverSoul for joining Ringling Bros. and other circuses that have recognized growing public disgust at the cruelty involved in training, caging, and chaining wild animals and encourages everyone to support circuses that feature only willing human performers.”
In 1997, PETA first wrote to UniverSoul, calling on it to end its live-animal acts. According to PETA, numerous animal welfare violations occurred during tours by UniverSoul, including denying a limping tiger veterinary care, denying elephants foot care, and locking big cats in cramped cages 24/7. Wounded camels, an injured zebra, elephants with bruised feet, and an elephant with a wound on his ankle had also been reported. Additionally, zebras forced to perform with UniverSoul had escaped multiple times, running frantically through busy streets in Philadelphia and Oakland, California.
Animal rights activists have protested this circus for years. In 2017, the activist Nikki Ford painted like a fierce PETA “tiger” caged herself at UniverSoul’s headquarters in downtown Atlanta to force the company to listen to the organisation’s demands. On UniverSoul’s 25th anniversary in 2018, a “crying elephant” led PETA supporters in a demonstration outside the circus’s opening-night performance in Philadelphia.
This is not the first circus that dropped its animal acts. In 2022, the famous Ringling Bros circus returned to perform after five years, but without animals, In 2017 it ended a 146-year-run using animals after customer sales declined in the wake of criticism over animal acts. The year before it had already dropped its elephant acts.