Circus Dropped Over Treatment of Animals

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Circus Dropped Over Treatment of Animals

From Boston.com
July 2010

“We researched the issue and we were not happy with what we found,’’ Nyul said. “So we made the decision to not host the circus.’’

Northeastern University will no longer invite the UniverSoul Circus to perform on campus, breaking with a two-year tradition amid questions about the organization’s treatment of animals, college representatives said.

The university made the decision after receiving several complaints, including a letter from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, about the welfare of the circus’ animals, said Renata Nyul, a spokeswoman for Northeastern.

“We researched the issue and we were not happy with what we found,’’ Nyul said. “So we made the decision to not host the circus.’’

The Atlanta-based circus concluded a 13-day performance on Northeastern’s campus Saturday. The circus had last performed at the university in 2008.

PETA contacted Northeastern after it had received phone calls from local residents who had seen the circus set up in one of the university’s parking lots, said Lisa Wathne, a spokeswoman for PETA. Residents could see UniverSoul’s tigers in their travel cages and feared for the animals’ well-being in the heat, she said.

UniverSoul executive vice president Jackie Davis said she wasn’t aware of Northeastern’s decision. The circus passed all animal regulatory inspections while in Boston, she said.

“We do not abuse animals nor do we support anyone that would abuse animals . . .’’ Davis said. “We take great pride in the way we treat our animals. I have no idea of why someone would make that accusation,’’ Davis said.

UniverSoul is not licensed under the US Department of Agriculture and does not own any of its animals, said David Sacks, a spokesman for the agency. In the past, the USDA has cited some of the companies from which the circus leases its animals for various infractions, but none have been cited recently, he said.

In 2003, the USDA investigated the owner of a pair of kangaroos employed by UniverSoul in a slapstick boxing act after two of the animals died within a few months of each other from alleged maltreatment, according to the agency. UniverSoul no longer works with the man, Sacks said. In 2002, PETA released undercover video of an elephant trainer contracted by UniverSoul beating his animals with bull hooks and electric prods.

UniverSoul has also lost sponsorships in the past with Burger King, Ford Motor Co., and General Mills amid concerns about the welfare of its show animals, PETA said.