BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A circus controversy is brewing downtown. Protesters crowded the streets on Ringling Bros.’ opening night, accusing the circus of cruelty to elephants. It’s the same issue that sparked a feud between Baltimore’s mayor and an A-list actress.

Kai Jackson has more on the clash.

Ringling Bros. bills itself as the Greatest Show on Earth. PETA calls it a show of shame and abuse.

Maryland families, many with children, made their way to the 1st Mariner Arena downtown on Wednesday, anxious to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“We like to see the animals and the clowns. You know, it’s a nice thing,” said Phillip Powell.

“It’s really fun. I like it,” said Maddie Lang.

Patrons had to navigate more than barkers trying to sell things. Many were faced with signs by animal rights activists from PETA. They accuse the circus of mistreating animals, especially the elephants.

“The only way to get a wild animal to perform these tricks is using violence and intimidation, which is why people can see for themselves elephants being beaten with heavy tip rods called bull hooks right before shows,” said Katie Arth, PETA.

The controversy made news earlier this month when Maryland actress Jada Pinkett Smith wrote Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asking her to protect the elephants, in part saying, “Unlike me and other actors, elephants do not choose to perform.” The mayor responded saying she could use the actress’s support on other pressing city issues.

“I’m a fan of the circus,” Rawlings-Blake said.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, Ringling Bros. says its circus exceeds all federal animal welfare standards.

Those we spoke with going to the circus say they respect PETA’s right to protest and don’t want to see animals abused but they also want to see proof that it’s occurring.

“Do they actually have proof of it? ‘Cause if they do, then I can understand but if they don’t, I don’t understand,” said Lindsay Sachs.

“I like that they have the cool animals and they do cool tricks but I don’t like that they’re abusing the animals,” said Anaya Womack.

PETA says it will give $5,000 to any worker at 1st Mariner who documents any Ringling employee using a bull hook on an elephant if the documentation results in a citation.

Ringling Bros. will be in Baltimore until Sunday, April 1.

Comments (52)
  1. Diane and Ciara Daly says:

    I was at the protest today with my daughter. Please if you can show up tonight and support PETA.
    As for the fine Mayor of our city who states “I like the Circus”. You are showing your ignorance by not first questioning why busy hard working people would spend their time and money to be at this protest.
    I can say it cost you and everyone who was involved in PETA (over 2 million people) our votes.
    All I can say Mayor is show your intellegent side and research why the Circus was fined $270,000. for animal abuse?
    If you do not care about animals one has to question your humanity. Maybe that is why we have so MANY homeless in your fine town.

    1. Concerned parent says:

      Find something else to do besides making it difficult for normal parents to take their children to the circus. I feel sorry for your children. The circus has been around forever. If you want to protect animals then start adopting so they are not put to sleep instead of interfering with wild animals you know nothing about and could not possibly care for. The circus takes great care of the animals and they have a better life with them.

      1. Mara L. says:

        Are you are implying by saying that a “normal” parent takes their child to the circus rather than using the circus as an opportunity to teach their child compassion for animals? There is nothing that shows more intelligence and humanity than attacking someone online for standing up for their beliefs. I would venture to guess that you don’t have a clue how the circus does or doesn’t treat their “wild” animals beyond what you read here, but that you chose to respond to Diane’s post anyway. P.S., the fact that the circus has “been around forever” doesn’t make it okay.

      2. Laurel says:

        wow I am a animal lover but don’t people know that PETA kills half of their OWN animals they say it’s better for them….and yet they talk about harming animals….they don’t even let animals have a chance at life….

      3. Wild Life Advocate says:

        Sounds like you are highly misinformed and I am sorry but 15 minutes of happiness for my child is not worth a lifetime of abuse for these poor animals . I am sure these elephants would rather be put to sleep then have to endure years of abuse from the circus. Wild animals belong out in the Safari enjoying the life they were meant to have by God not doing Circus tricks for your amusement. Better life? Really? Have your baby taken from you and see how you feel!! not to mention being protted and abused to make you do something that is not natural to your body. Better Life? Whatever? It doesn’t matter how long the circus has been around right is right and wrong is wrong.

      4. ROSE C says:


      5. ROSE C says:


    2. NoAnimalsInTheCircus says:

      Thank you and your daughter for your compassion and for being a voice for these beautiful animals who suffer tremendous cruelty in this barbaric and archaic circus. I also participated in protests against “The Cruelest Show On Earth” while the were in New Jersey the past two weeks. I’m posting this link in case you haven’t heard about it: HR 3359 The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act There is a Call to Action to support this bill March 20 – 23.

      1. Diane and Ciara Daly says:

        Thank you for all your support to the animals and to us. If we make 2,000,000. people angry and can just encourge one to research what they are talking about it is ALL worth it!!! I know when people research what they are doing they can not help but agree!!!

    3. chrrr says:

      I would actually have a moral qualm against a circus and I think I vaguely remember going to one in my life, but for the love of all that is good, don’t support PETA. They mostly just try to get on the news and cash in on people’s emotions and do nothing constructive with the funds they raise. It just goes to more protests that won’t imaginably have any effect on whatever is the trendy thing to protest this week. Volunteer for the ASPCA if you want to have an actual positive effect on animals’ lives.

      1. LisaVA says:

        Peta is not the only group protesting the circus in this area. Defending Animal Rights Today and Tomorrow, Open the Cages Alliance, Baltimore Animal Rights Network, Compassion for Animals, Animal Rights Collective and many individuals are also protesting the circus.
        That said, even if you disagree with many of Peta’s policies and actions, as I do, you cannot totally dismiss some of their good works, and any thinking person can recognize that these animals are kept in captivity and forced to perform for entertainment. You can look at the circus web site for their tour schedule to see they are carted around the country for months working 12 hour days. When they are not working they are just chained , caged and boxed up. ANYONE can use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the USDA violations of any circus that uses animals. But, you should know that the USDA violations are just a drop in the bucket because a lot of what they do to those animals is not inspected and a lot of it is not against the law, but that does not make it right.

    4. Bob Sherron says:

      Personaly I prefer to rescue chickens. I rescue them 4 pieces at a time from Col. Sanders.

    5. Marcel says:

      My favorite iamnal is the lion. thanks for the chance to win these tickets. One of the showings is on my son’s 4th birthday on 1/14 and I would love to surprise him by taking him to

  2. Diane and Ciara Daly says:

    I guess you did not read the part about the Circus being fined $270,000. for animal abuse. How does that show the Circus is taking “great care of them and have a better life with them” The largest fine in US history. Murder has been around forever, so I do not really get you point about that. You are right about one thing I am not a normal parent I am an outstanding one who sacrifices to send my daughter to a great Catholic School and to show her how to be empathic and loving to all God’s creatures. As a matter of fact we both had the honor of being on CBS news 13 today to express our opinions ( both of us). Do not feel sorry for my child. She learned a lesson that money could not buy, she leared that standing up for your rights even an 8 year old can get on the news to express her opinion and have an article written with her quote in it. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN TH WORLD! God Bless You and your children.

    1. Denise says:

      Hi, Diane! I was standing next to you and Ciara at the demo today. I think it’s great that you are providing your daughter with good and honest life lessons. She seems like a very well-rounded, intelligent, and compassionate girl.

      1. Diane and Ciara Daly says:

        Thank you Denise, I remember you! Thank you for standing up for the rights of all God’s creatures!!! See you in the future at the next event!

    2. Earl says:

      Too bad you do not allow your daughter freedom of religion and instead send her where she is more likely to be abused by perverted clergy- Catholic school. If your daughter grows up and is of an age to make a decision to be Catholic, fine, but it is totally a violation of a child’s rights to force your religious beliefs on them. Your kid looked more like a trained seal- believing what you tell her to and parroting it back. Get her out of Catholic school before they mess her up worse and let her decide if she wants religion forced down her throat or wants to think for herself and develop her own beliefs. In many ways, she is just like those poor animals! So sad

      I do not support PETA and will not show up anywhere they do, however I do also believe the circus abuses the animals in how the train & maintain them.

      1. Wild Life Advocate says:

        Earl you are ridiculous! Sounds like this mom is teaching her daughter to be “compassiionate” and I guess if that is a taught behavior” our world needs to watch out for those trying to teach youngsters morals, manners ect to make them better productive people.Lets put focus where it needs to be not be litting a mom trying to teach her daughter to stand up for what is right. Sounds like your on the wrong post…….

      2. Dinger says:

        Sounds like you are forcing your secularism on others. Mind your own business and let parents raise their kids.

    3. Wiseguy says:

      Now that you got your 15 minutes of fame………give your daughter a hamburger and send her back to school where she should have been.

      1. Diane and Ciara Daly says:

        “Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society…Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.” – César Chávez

        Wiseguy, I see why you got your name. As an A plus student, she was able to take the day off. As for hamburger..I am in the medical field and counsel people on how to not wind up with strokes and heart attacks. I love her to much to give her one of those!!
        I am however sorry tht you feel such anger and hate towards people you do not even know. As her parent I decide what the best learning experience for her day will be and I am VERY pleased with my decision. God bless you and help you to find more compassion towards animals and people!!!!

    4. commonsense711 says:

      Find out the truth about peta go to dont be fooled by these people.

  3. Dani says:

    Great job to everyone at the protest today!

    1. the truth says:

      PETA is just another power trip & polictical group of hacks with the afew execs. make a ton of money. Phoney pricks.

      1. Wiseguy says:

        PETA………..People Eating Tastey Animals.

        Thats why I am at the top of the food chain!

    2. Diane and Ciara Daly says:

      Thanks Dani….you tooo!!!!

      1. peterpan says:

        This is the Diane & Ciara thread, a couple of Lezbo’s.

  4. Lisa from Lansdowne says:

    Normally I would not support PETA because they go to extreme lengths to make a point, but I’m on their side on this subject. I’m not sure if any animals are being tortured but I think it’s sad the way they are paraded around for our entertainment. They belong in their natural habitats or in a sanctuary.

    1. dave says:

      Hey Lisa, why don’t you ask one of them what kind of day they’re having?

  5. donnamartin says:

    “I’m a fan of the circus,” Rawlings-Blake said. Yeah, you must LOVE the circus Stephanie, that explains why you’ve let the city become one.

  6. FAIL says:

    Occupy Baltimorons + PETA = Liberals

  7. Little Mimi says:

    @ Concerned Parent: If they take such good care of the animals, why were they given the biggest fine ever? If they take such good care of their animals, why do some elephants/tigers (Videos are Online) attack the trainers also putting your children at risk? Those elephants that fought back, attacked were shot and killed in their rampage…..That was the happiest day of that elephants life…They were taken from the wild, forced to perform, kicked, punched, beaten, broken down….They travel all the time, with hardly any room to roam freely….Jada Pinkett-Smith, Alec Baldwin, Richard Pryor and many more see the circus for what it is, why can’t you? I raised my child to always stand up and support those who cannot do this for themselves, both people and animals. What you saw in that circus arena is not what you would have seen had you been standing behind the curtain before and after the show…

    “But for the use of physical punishment by, and fear of their oppressors, animals would never be a part of a circus.” – Richard Pryor

    1. Dinger says:

      So says the late Richard Pryor, who set a great example for kids by setting himself on fire while free-basing cocaine!

  8. Ravens1 says:

    PETA is over-dramatic. I am all for animal rights and anti-animal cruality. But this is the same group that doesn’t want us to call our dogs and cats, “pets”. They claim the word pet is degrading…

  9. Ricci Adams says:

    Let PETA eat elephant Steaks, yum. Can you even imagine the size of an Elephant Tenderloin!

    1. Little Mimi says:

      Interesting comment, if this is the most intelligent response you have to come up with, it’s now proven without a doubt there is more intelligence in animals’ by far…Thanks for proving this Ricci your comment makes as much sense as putting an outdoor patio on an underwater submarine. No matter how hard you try and want it to happen it never comes together to work. PETA works and is changing the way animals are treated. They are not alone either; other organizations are growing, forming and working together to defend animals’ rights against people like you. I am honored to stand out with a crowd holding a sign asking everyone else for just a little bit of sympathy, put yourself in the animals place get an idea what they go thru before you type a stupid comment like you did…Hungry now?

      1. commonsense711 says:

        Don’t believe the bull they are feeding you go to see the truth about the organization you want us to support.

  10. camo says:

    If you PETA people really want to help the elephants why dont you go over to the dark continent and spend your money hiring natives to form a protective shield around the herds of elephants that are being slaughtered for their ivory by poachers . I’m sure if you asked any elephant they’d take `circus life ` over trying to dodge drug crazed poachers with automatic weapons any day.

    1. Diane and Ciara Daly says:

      Camo….If you do a little research you will find that PETA helps in that way too…To all of us the amimals suffering in the Circus are no less important than those still living in Africa. We welcome animals lovers like you!!! Thanks for being informed and commenting.

      1. commonsense711 says:

        peta helps no one but themselves go to see the truth, teach your daughter the truth not lies.

  11. Earl says:

    @Camo- I am not so sure about that! A lot of humans chose suicide over a miserable existence, don’t they? I’d rather have a short life in natural freedom than a long one being abused and exploited in a cage, wouldn’t you?

    Circuses should not be allowed to have wild animals as they cannot provide proper habitats for them on the road. AT least if they are in a wildlife preserve or a modern zoo they are roaming free and not living in cages. That’s not perfect, but a lot better.

    PETA would better serve animals if they took all that money they pay their execs and used it to hire Africans to protect wild life from poachers. The circus stun accomplished nothing, but dedicated well trained game protectors would accomplish a lot & actually save animals & allow them to live free at the same time.

    1. Diane and Ciara Daly says:

      Thank you Earl alot of great comments. Just an FYI MOST of PETAs work force , work for free in their spare time, including many : Execs”. We are working in Africia!! You sound like a man with a strong opinion who could really get behind this.. We would love to see you at a protest!!

      1. commonsense711 says:

        we need to protest Peta, go to learn the truth

  12. Scotsjock says:

    I’m sure many people reading this have pets. To get your pets to perform trick or to obey your commands, you treat your pet with love and reespect. Elephants etc are no different.
    PETA is just another organization out to stir up trouble and make a name for themselves.
    A circus is not a circus without animals, it’s just another show.

  13. USAF WIFE says:

    Don’t Support PETA they are against military!!!! As a military wife I am strongly offended that on PETA’s facebook page there are a large amount of disrespectful comments about the US Military! Next time you all protest keep in mind that the US Military protects your freedom to even do so. Another thing, PETA is a completely useless group, they turn down just about anyone who goes in trying to adopt a pet which causes them to have to euthanize them which gives them no chance at life what so ever. If people want to help animals, go to school and become a vet, or vet tech or volunteer with the ASPCA. DO NOT listen to everything you read or see on the website. I myself am an animal lover and will be the first one to stand up for it but I’LL BE DAMNED IF YOU THINK I WILL SUPPORT ANY GROUP THAT IS AGAINST THE US MILITARY.

    1. commonsense711 says:

      and they are really against animals too. go to and learn the truth

      1. USAF WIFE says:

        I know I follow them on facebook…I’ve read that they basically kill animals because they “think they will suffer” even if they are not suffering….Hippocrates..

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