The circus is in town this weekend, and St. Louis animal-rights activists are turning out to try to convince showgoers that the Greatest Show on Earth is actually the saddest.
Christina Tenti, of south St. Louis County, and her volunteer team say they're protesting at the Scottrade Center in stealth-mode this weekend, passing out coloring books about abuses at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Activists and investigators have been clamoring about animal mistreatment at the world's most famous circus, including whipping exotic animals with bullhooks, trapping them in cars filled with feces and shocking them with electric probes, for years. In 2011 the USDA fined the Ringling Bro.'s parent company $270,000 -- the largest animal abuse penalty in history -- for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
Tenti is leading the charge against the circus. She says signs and picket lines aren't effective, so she's trying a new strategy: smiles and coloring books.
"If people find out you're with PETA or you're a protester, St. Louis is a small community, and they don't like that," said Tenti. "So we just smile and say, 'Let this be your last trip.'"
Tenti said her strategy worked earlier this year when a circus came to the Jamestown Mall in Florissant.
"The treatment is so horrendous," she said. "It just needs to stop."
The St. Louis Animal Rights Team will also be protesting the circus, picketing and holding signs on Thursday and Friday.
If you want to join the protest, it takes place from 6 to 7 p.m. from October 17 through 20 at 1401 Clark Avenue. For more information, join the Facebook event or contact Tenti at firstname.lastname@example.org.