PETA protests the return of UniverSoul Circus in Detroit

by

comment
PETA protesters at a previous event in Detroit. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PETA
  • Photo courtesy of PETA
  • PETA protesters at a previous event in Detroit.

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.



Eight protesters gathered outside the Aretha Thursday night, The Detroit News reports. Protesters held signs calling an end to the inhumane treatment of animals and demanded UniverSoul discontinue animal acts altogether.

PETA's director of student campaigns and influence, Rachelle Owen told The Detroit News that UniverSoul appears to have eliminated elephants and tigers from its acts. The circus' official Instagram does not appear to have posted any recent images or videos of exotic animals, save for a post from 2017 with an image of a camel. Earlier this year, PETA released a video of a UniverSoul employee punching a camel in the neck while giving rides to circus goers.

Last year, New Jersey and Hawaii became the first states in the U.S. to ban the use of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows. Currently, Michigan does not have any such legislation in place beyond exhibition requirements that prevent contact between what they define as large carnivores and the public. Traveling circuses and shows in Michigan must also meet or exceed the requirements defined in the Animal Welfare Act.

UniverSoul performances will run through Sept. 29.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.