The UniverSoul Circus returned to Detroit Thursday night for a four-week 47-show engagement at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater. As with previous visits, the Atlanta-based traveling circus was greeted by a group representing the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who protested years of animal abuse, neglect, and enslavement at the hands of UniverSoul trainers and performers.
Founded in 1994, UniverSoul Circus is billed as “a circus like no other” for its high percentage of performers of color who participate in dance, stunt, and high-flying acrobatic acts. Like other circuses, however, UniverSoul has an extensive rap sheet when it comes to its history of animal abuse, according to PETA.
There are numerous reports of lacerations, injuries, and use of bullhooks, as well as keeping tigers and other large cats in cramped enclosures while chained. (A disturbing video of a distressed UniverSoul tiger whose foot is trapped in the cage's sliding door emerged in 2011.) There are multiple accounts of zebras escaping circus grounds, including stops in Philidelphia and Oakland, California, as well as reports that UniverSoul forces lame and arthritic elephants to perform, failing to provide proper veterinary care for its animals.