Photo credit: Preston Yardley
Students from the Animal Allies club protested the Jordan World Circus last week saying they believe the circus animals are mistreated.
As circus-goers arrived at the North entrance of the UCCU Center they were greeted by a line of protesters holding signs with slogans such as “Circuses Hurt Animals” and “Elephants are Abused.”
Most of the 10-12 protesters were members of the UVU Animal Allies Club, although a few were from the local chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Animal Allies is concerned about the treatment of all animals, but the focus of last week’s protest was elephants.
“These animals are wild and they belong in the wild. They don’t belong in a show,” said Brenden Emery, vice president of Animal Allies.
Club president Landon Sikahema claims that the Jordan World Circus is particularly bad because they are not planning to phase out their elephant acts like other circuses, such as Ringling Brothers, have done.
“We’re here to get people to stop giving them business,” said Sikahema.
Elephant trainer George Hanneford, III said that the protesters are part of extremist groups that want to remove all animals from human society. He said protesters read about abuse, or see a video on the internet, then show up and say they know more about the animals than the people who work with them.
“These groups stereotype and vilify people, like myself, and make them into caricatures, like Disney villains,” he said. “That’s the fantasy they live in.”
His two elephants, Carol and Patty are stars of the show. They perform the closing act with synchronized tricks and dance routines. They give rides to children between performances.
Hanneford has lived and worked with his elephants for 43 years, ever since his parents adopted the pair when he was three years old. He said they were born in the U.S. and have always been in the circus life.
“I grew up with these two elephants. They’re like my sisters,” he said.
Jordan World Circus does not manage the animals directly but contracts with animal handlers from around the country.
“We (the handlers) care about the animals. We’re here for the welfare of our animals,” Hanneford said.
Although Carol and Patty spend up to 35 weeks out of the year on tour, they spend their off-time on ranch land in Missouri and Florida.
UCCU Director Mark Hildebrand said he has no intention of barring the circus from returning next year. He said that in 11 years of hosting the Jordan World Circus he has never seen or heard of the animals being mistreated.
“Word would get out if they treated them badly,” Hildebrand said.