Video: PETA Comes to Jacksonville to Protest UniverSoul Circus Animal Treatment

Apr 3, 2018

With the UniverSoul Circus coming into town this week, PETA has followed the act to its latest stop in Jacksonville Tuesday.

To start a conversation on the treatment of circus animals, PETA used a human model, who was body painted to look like a tiger at Friendship Fountain.  

PETA spokeswoman Mysti Lee said this tactic has been used in other Florida cities by the animal rights group as they pass out information to those who walk by.

“This is a really attention grabbing way to get people talking about issues that they otherwise wouldn’t consider,” Lee said. “Our volunteer is bearing her body for animals who never had a say of what happen to theirs.”  

Lee said they don’t want the circus to shut down, but just to stop using wild animals in performances.

Fellow PETA campaigner, Nikki Ford, who was Tuesday’s model, said the circus should move to put more of a spotlight on the human entertainers as opposed to the animals.

“Wild animals do not belong in the circus and we want UniverSoul to remove those animals from their show and focus on their talented human arts instead,” Ford said.

When asked about PETA’s allegations, the UniverSoul Circus responded to WJCT News with an email that reads:

“The UniverSoul Circus believes that all animals are entitled to humane treatment and should never be mistreated or abused in any way.  All our animal vendors are subject to regulation by federal, state, and local animal welfare authorities.  We care about the well-being of each of the animals that travels with and performs in our shows, and we regard all of them as valued members of our performing cast delivering high quality, family friendly entertainment that brings joy, happiness and laughter to audiences around the world.”

Kevin Venardos, producer and ringmaster of Venardos Circus, has been in the industry for over 20 years. He said that all circuses don’t have animals, such as his, and that abuse doesn’t always happen for those who do.

“If people can conceive that point, then a more rational kind of conversation [can] go on. Just yelling at each other, it doesn’t go anywhere. And in the end all the animals continue to need to be care for,” Venardos said.

Venardos said there is an appeal for performances with human acts just as there is for those who enjoy the traditional format.  

PETA will continue its protest, joining with other animal rights groups, at Tuesday’s opening night of the UniverSoul Circus, which is located off of Bay Street.

The circus runs April 3 - 8 at Metropolitan Park. More information is available on the Universoul Circus website.

Joslyn Simmons can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org, 904-358-6316