The Carson & Barnes Family Circus (Reviews) and other popular circuses: What you should know before you go: What's wrong with them? Are there other options to Animal-Based circuses? What about Non-Animal Circuses? How are animals in circuses treated?

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August 30th 2008
Published: August 30th 2008
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Carson & Barnes Circus ElephantCarson & Barnes Circus ElephantCarson & Barnes Circus Elephant

Before the show in Corvallis, Oregon
8/30/08 For two days this week, I spontaneously boycotted the Carson & Barnes Family Circuses, I add some photos to this blog and some information about why I felt compelled to do it:

In one advertisement alone for the Carson & Barnes Family Circus, it gave the schedule for their performances in Washington - Oregon - and California from August 19th - September 6th, 2008, and stressed how they have beautiful elephants performing.

In reading between the lines, it occurred to me in just 19 days, the circus animals would need to perform at their best in a total of 16 cities, sometimes having to perform two shows per day. (And please note, this was just one flier, these elephant and other the other animals have been: and will be on the road for much longer than my limited awareness of their tour schedule).

So, what is wrong with this? What is wrong with seeing animals performing in circuses, isn't that the only way parents can really give their children a close up experience with circuses and animals?

The answer is complex but comes down to a few simple facts: The more we support animal-circuses, the more
Boycotting the CircusBoycotting the CircusBoycotting the Circus

Cottage Grove, Oregon
they go on. In some cities and countries, animal-circuses are becoming banned. Now, this thought for those who are not aware of the experience of the animals, may seem like a terrible thing, depriving their children of an experience most of us grew up with.

The fact is in our media and high tech age, we have more information available to us than what we used to:

Regarding the Carson & Barnes Family Circus, and other circuses around the world, animals experience suffering in the hands of their trainers, (this includes those beautiful elephants, miniature horses and ponies, bears, big cats, camels, and others). To learn the tricks they perform for us, they have to endure years of being yelled at. being hit by bullhooks, electric prods, whips, or the angry and frustrated hands of their trainers, (like painful lip twists given to the horses).

The outcome; Animals perform out of fear, not because they are enjoying what they are doing. They have no choice. If they decide not to perform one show, aren't feeling well, or try to run away from their trainer, the consequences can be dyer. Many have been beat extensively, chained and caged as punishment, deprived of food and water, continually punished long after the event has happened, or even killed. This is especially true of Bull Elephants. Please see (the website for PAWS Sanctuary in California for more details about this currently hot topic).

The website has an enormous amount of documented evidence to support the above statements I write about. Pictures and videos tell it all. There is even undercover footage of an elephant training session at the Carson & Barnes Family Circus, as well as information and other video footage available about other popular circuses such as Ringling Bros., Barnun & Bailey Circus, and the Shriner's Circus, (including when things go bad for the elephants and other animals). In the video footage of the popular Carson & Barnes Family Circus, "you'll hear those naturally gentle herbivorous animals shrieking in pain and fear as a trainer with a bullhook urges his apprentice not to just touch them but to 'hurt them,' and 'make 'em scream,' saying that it has to be in the barn-- it can't be done in front to 1,000 people." (

Well, this information inspired me to boycott the Carson & Barnes Family Circus in two cities. The first in Corvallis and the second in Cottage Grove, Oregon. I was the only one boycotting there. I am not affiliated with any organization, so I just quietly showed up with some homemade fliers in Corvallis. I finally got escorted out by one of the clowns, which was not a pleasant experience, but it was worth it. A friend joined me in Cottage Grove where she had made up some colorful signs. Mine said, "Circuses are not fun for the Animals," and something like "Be Aware of the Experience of the Animals You See Performing." Several others were at this one. We just stood there with our signs, only talking to people if they came up to us and asked us about what we were doing. The responses we got were many and ranged from smiles, thumbs up, and positive horn honking, to the not so friendly middle finger and yelling that we should "get a life!" My main goal was to get people to think and just consider, (even for a moment), the experiences of the animals that were performing, in hopes it would open their hearts to new way of seeing this type of entertainment.

One woman confidently told me she had done her research regarding the Carson & Barnes Family Circus, and felt that she was choosing a good circus to go to. Their website mentions that they have a Endangered Ark Foundation. Well, the pictures on their website show a happy mother and baby elephant in what appears to be a sanctuary, but to look closer and do some research beyond what the particular circus website is feeding you, these elephants are being breed and trained so they can have new elephants to perform in the circus, and do elephant rides, etc. We all know that baby elephants are a big crowd pleaser, but this is not helping the Asian Elephant population that is struggling for survival throughout Asia, and those elephants that need a true sanctuary to live out their lives. This is a self-serving organization to keep the show going on.

The Carson & Barnes Family Circus/Endangered Ark Foundation is not good organizations to donate to, even though it may appear that they are helping/saving elephants: Donate to sanctuaries instead. PAWS in California (Performing Animal Welfare Society:, the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary, or The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand ( are just a few great alternatives (all tax-deductible in the U.S.)- refer to my past travel blog entries about my visit to PAWS, and the Elephant Nature Park for photos of these special places that ARE helping elephants.

In my own internet searches I found a variety of websites that certainly give some positive options for attending circuses; mainly referred to as Non-Animal Circuses, such as the fancy Cirque du Soleil, but more options are becoming available. One just has to start looking. They have the entertaining trapeze artists, clowns, jugglers, acrobats, and other very eager and willing performers. These are still fun for children, even without the animals, and may just inspire your little one to take up gymnastics, or some other form of entertainment or athleticism.

Some good advice from mentions the following, in addition to supporting Non-Animal Circuses:
1. Encourage children to appreciate and respect wild animals in their natural habitats.
2. Teach children that is is not acceptable to force wild animals to do tricks for our amusement.

I end this blog entry with information from the small flier I created and was handing out this week:

Did You Know?
While they may be fun for us… Circuses Are Not Fun for the Animals

Please Be Aware of the Experience of the Animals You See Performing:

1. Animals learn to perform tricks by painful training methods: they perform out of fear of being hit by metal bullhooks, or having electric prods, whips, or other painful tools used on them.

2. Animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, walk on two legs, balance on balls, paint, or jump through rings of fire. Elephants are also trained to smile, again for our enjoyment not theirs.

3. Performing elephants are on the road up to 50 weeks per year: when not performing their feet are chained together leaving them little room to move: they are forced into semi-trailers or railroad cars, as they go from city to city rarely getting to just relax and Be. Their interactions with one another is greatly limited.

4. When an elephant in under a lot of stress, it will rock its body back and forth in a swaying motion: it is not dancing nor is it happy. The elephant is showing that it is nervous or anxious with its surrounding or upcoming events.

5. Do animals cry? Under stress, elephants often have moisture dripping off from their cheeks or even out of their eyes. This is again a sign of high emotion, and often means they are stressed and unhappy. Please observe the animals and think about the experience they are having.

6. If you want to do something to help animals in captivity, please stop supporting circuses, encourage zoos to create large enough habitats for the animals they keep, and support the development of sanctuaries worldwide. For more information, check out,,, and and please remember the animals.


Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Getting hosed offGetting hosed off
Getting hosed off

The intensity of this sprayer looked more like a pressure-washer. I never have seen this before, the other times I have seen elephants being washed was with a regular or large, reinforced gardening hose.
Heavy Carriage for Elephant- What about Elephant Riding?Heavy Carriage for Elephant- What about Elephant Riding?
Heavy Carriage for Elephant- What about Elephant Riding?

If you refer my past blog entries about elephant riding, the elephant's back is actually not very strong, as opposed to the strength the elephant has for pulling, lifting with its' trunk, or pushing. The elephant's back is not designed for these heavy carriages and the several riders that will then be carried in them, as well as cause skin break down issues.

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