PETA plans circus protest over alleged elephant abuse

The UniverSoul Circus will began performances in Queens this week. Photo courtesy UniverSoul Circus
By Ivan Pereira

While the UniverSoul Circus returned to Roy Wilkins Park for a new year of high-flying shows Tuesday, PETA protesters planned to rally against the show’s owners over the alleged mistreatment of animals.

Members of the animal rights group were set to hold a protest as the Atlanta-based circus started its nearly two-week run in southeast Queens. The organization contended UniverSoul exhibitor Tim Frisco, of the Carson & Barnes Circus, was caught on an undercover video abusing elephants.

“We’re telling parents that if their kids love animals, the last place that they should go is the circus,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Director Delcianna Winders said in a statement.

UniverSoul spokesman Hank Ernest denied that the circus’ trainers use harsh methods on its animals.

“We are always for the proper treatment of animals and absolutely oppose any form of cruelty or the mistreatment of animals wild or domestic,” he said.

The circus, made up of predominantly black performers, has been delighting audiences in the park for the last seven years. UniverSoul will stage performances until April 10.

This year the program includes a contortion exhibition called Pretty Girl Rocks, a motorcycle show and an acrobatic presentation. UniverSoul Circus Founder and CEO Cedric Walker said the circus’ mix of traditional big top venues and hip-hop entertainment makes it a great show for all ages.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an urbanite or a suburbanite, old school or new school, Generation X or Y, pre-school, high school or grad school — I strongly believe everyone will find something to enjoy at our show,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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