Press Release

Consumer Group Urges Chicago Aldermen To Keep Circuses, Avoid Nationwide Ridicule

Chicago — Yesterday the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) dispatched e-mails to all members of the Chicago City Council, urging them to think twice before following the anti-circus recommendations of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

PETA has been lobbying for citywide restrictions on tools and methods available to live-animal trainers. If a current proposal from Alderman Mary Ann Smith were to pass, no circus featuring live elephants would be able to return to Chicago.

In 2006, at PETA’s urging, the Chicago City Council banned the sale of the culinary delicacy foie gras. But after two years of being the butt of national jokes, the City Council corrected its error and repealed the ban in May. The current animal-rights proposal promises to bring more of the same kind of national ridicule, as Chicago would become the largest American city whose children could not see “The Greatest Show On Earth.”

“PETA has a long history of making well-meaning people look incredibly stupid,” said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. “The truth is stranger than fiction. PETA has argued in court that elephants would be better off dead in Africa than alive in American zoos and circuses. PETA kills thousands of dogs and cats at its Virginia headquarters every year. It’s a mystery why Chicago lawmakers would risk their reputations for this bunch of hypocrites.”

CCF’s letter to each member of the Chicago City Council follows.

Dear Alderman,

It has come to my attention that in recent weeks, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has once again been appealing for City Council members’ support of Alderman Mary Ann Smith’s proposed “elephant protection” ordinance.

I hope the recent national ridicule directed against supporters of Chicago’s ill-fated foie gras ban remains fresh in your mind. To consumers in Chicago and beyond, spending valuable time attempting to micro-manage the methods of professional animal trainers will ultimately seem petty and childish compared to more pressing matters like crime, poverty, and education. Especially if its chief result is a guarantee that no major circus will ever return to Chicago again.

Before you give serious weight to PETA’s point of view, I thought you might find a balanced look at the organization and its tactics to be a helpful guide.

My organization, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom, has published a very brief, informative two-page guide to PETA, which you can find at the following link:

It’s hard to take seriously, on its face, any claim from PETA that it wants to protect the lives of circus elephants.

In 2003, when the San Diego Zoo was trying to import elephants from Africa (where poaching endangers their survival), PETA’s lawyer argued in federal court — with a straight face — that “If the elephants are euthanized [killed] in Swaziland,” that would be “a better outcome than to have these elephants … live the rest of their lives in captivity.”

The judge in that case later wrote, incredulous, that PETA “would rather see the elephants dead” than in captivity.

I respectfully suggest that if the Chicago City Council wants to do something meaningful to protect animals, it should consider an aggressive program encouraging city residents to adopt more dogs and cats from shelters. This is, sadly, a behavior that PETA itself refuses to make a priority.

Public records show that PETA kills more than 90 percent of the pets it takes in for adoption. (Last year, more than 1,800 dogs and cats were “put down” by PETA’s employees. They adopted out only 18 animals.)

Encouraging families to save the lives of shelter pets instead of weaving creative yarns about the “abuse” of circus animals isn’t sexy, and it won’t earn many headlines. But it’s honest, and it also won’t result in nationwide ridicule as the foie gras debacle did.

If I can ever offer any assistance in sorting out the various players in the animal protection movement, I hope you won’t hesitate to get in touch. My organization is the nation’s foremost “watchdog” in this regard.

With Every Good Wish,

David Martosko

Director of Research

The Center for Consumer Freedom

cc: The Honorable Richard M. Daley, Mayor, City of Chicago

Founded in 1996, the Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices. For more information, visit


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