Garden Bros. Circus Shows at Chaifetz Canceled After Protests

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FLICKR/IAN MUTTOO
Looks like the circus isn't coming to town after all.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, aka PETA, issued a press release this morning announcing that Garden Bros.' performances at Chaifetz Arena, scheduled for June 8 and 9, have been canceled.



The animal activists took credit for the cancelation, saying Garden Bros. has been on its radar for quite some time. Other venues across the country, it says, have either canceled the circus' shows or forbade it from using animal performers.

"Garden Bros. Circus has toured without wild animals in Canada and even formed an animal-free unit called the Cirque, yet it's still bullying elephants into performing tricks throughout the United States," PETA Foundation Deputy Director Rachel Mathews said in the release. "Compassionate venues like Saint Louis University are helping PETA push the circus toward the animal-free future it must embrace if it wants to keep attracting audiences."



The show still shows up on Chaifetz Arena's official schedule. A Saint Louis University spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, but in response to an inquiry from the RFT, PETA produced a May 15 email from SLU President Fred Pestello stating that the circus would be canceled.

"Thank you for taking the time to write regarding the Garden Bros. Circus shows scheduled for Chaifetz Arena June 8-9," Pestello wrote to Melanie Johnson of PETA. "We have worked with our arena management firm, Spectra, and decided that the shows will be canceled."

PETA says it recently heard from a whistleblower alleging that Garden Bros.' elephant supplier, Carson & Barnes Circus, would "warm up" the pachyderms before shows by shocking them with a Taser or jabbing them with a bullhook. A handler was also caught on stage last year whipping a llama.

The company, which is based in Florida, has also earned an "F" from the Better Business Bureau.

Update: SLU spokesman Clayton Berry confirmed the cancellation, saying, "SLU was contacted by PETA, and after the University's internal review, the decision was made to cancel the circus event."

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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