University Stops Circus Ticket Offering after Pressure from PETA

By Christopher Neefus | February 5, 2010 | 4:46 PM EST

African Bush elephant (Wikipedia Commons)

( - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has succeeded in keeping the alumni association of Neumann University from offering discounted circus tickets to its members.
The animal rights organization sent a letter to Director of Alumni Relations & Special Programs Judi Stanaitis last week criticizing the university for deviating from its “founding principles of respect and concern for others” by supporting Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, which PETA thinks is cruel to animals.
“It’s troubling that a university founded in the Franciscan tradition, which ‘emphasizes respect for individuals, concern for the environment, and social responsibility,’ would endorse a business that profits from animal abuse,” wrote Meg Grigorian, PETA’s “Circus Specialist.”
PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said, “A Franciscan university promoting an entertainment event in which elephants are hit and harmed is like a hospital promoting artery-clogging double bacon cheeseburgers. What would St. Francis of Assisi -- the patron saint of animals – say?”
Neumann University is run by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, named after St. Francis of Assisi, who is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment. The Alumni Association was offering discounted tickets to the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey’s Circus FUNundrum show, which was headed to Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center on Feb. 27.
The Alumni Association summarily ended its sponsorship of the event, which Neumann University spokesman Steve Bell said was already in the works.
“There was already an ongoing conversation among our alumni association about the appropriateness of this event,” Bell told, “and then our director got the letter, and that sort of brought it to the front burner.”
Bell explained that the alumni agreed the event ran contrary to their values. “The Neumann University is a Catholic and Franciscan school, and the Franciscan tradition emphasizes, among other things, respect for individuals, for animals, and for the environment, and we believe that university-sponsored events should be in concert with these values,” he said.
For its part, Ringling Bros. says it treats its animals humanely. “Because animals are an integral part of what we present to our audiences,” the company says of its treatment of animals, “Ringling Bros. provides the highest standards of care to our animal performers 365 days a year. Our staff consists of animal experts who devote their lives to living, working, and caring for animals.” The company also said they exceed “all federal animal welfare standards” of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

PETA, however, has launched a Web site called “,” where  they make a number of abuse allegations, including that baby elephants are separated from their mothers and prodded with bull-hooks, that one died when forced to perform while ill, and that another drowned because it had not been taught by its mother to swim.
The group recruited celebrity Kathy Najimy (Wall-E, TV’s King of the Hill) to narrate a video called “Ringling Bros. Baby Killers” for the site.
The Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization “devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices,” is criticizing PETA for what it says is hypocrisy.
“As happens all too often,” the CCF said in a statement, “university officials cried ‘uncle’ without looking carefully at PETA’s credibility.”
According to the consumer group, PETA is guilty of “hypocrisy,” because it has euthanized the vast majority of stray cats and dogs it takes in and had found homes for fewer than one percent in 2008.
Records PETA filed with the state of Virginia last year show they euthanized more than 95 percent of the pets in its care, excluding animals brought in to be spayed or neutered and then returned to their owners. “Out of the 2,216 animals PETA took during 2008, it managed to find homes for a mere seven animals – despite an annual budget of $32 million.”
“What’s the reason for PETA’s hypocrisy? Money,” the CCF said. “It’s easier and cheaper to run media campaigns berating circuses than to actually roll up a sleeve or two and save cats and dogs. The last thing PETA wants to do is actually take care of animals. That’s expensive.”
PETA has used its budget to launch a number of high-profile ad campaigns, including a series of print runs featuring celebrities posed nude, saying, “I’d Rather Go Nude Than Wear Fur.”
Barnum and Bailey’s Circus is heading to Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 13, and ahead of the performance, PETA has dispatched its fiberglass sculpture named “Ella PhantzPeril” to a busy intersection in the city’s Woodruff Park (the intersection of Edgewood Ave S.E., Peachtree St., and Marietta St.).
“We hope that people will take one look at the tears in this elephant’s eyes and decide to stay away from Ringling and all other traveling animal acts that take baby elephants away from their loving mothers and put them in chains for life,” said PETA Director Debbie Leahy in a statement.
The statue, which will stay on display through Feb. 12, was designed by New Yorker cartoonist Hillary Bliss and is inscribed, “See Shackles, Bullhooks, Loneliness—All Under the Big Top.”
PETA also announced on Feb. 3 that it dispatched “Ellie,” a dress-up elephant with a bloody bandage wrapped around a head wound, to greet students as they exited August Circle Elementary School that afternoon.
The elephant wore a button reading “Circuses Are No Fun for Animals” with a large PETA logo, and handed out activity books explaining the group’s claims of animal abuse.
One of PETA’s elephant-centered comic strips can be viewed here.
The Associated Press recently reported that, ahead of Groundhog Day, PETA also requested that the famed Punxsutawney Phil groundhog, whose shadow traditionally predicts whether winter will drag on, be replaced with a “robotic stand-in.”
Feld Entertainment, the parent company to Ringling Bros., did not return requests for comment at press time.