TORONTO – Animal law advocacy organization Animal Justice filed a false advertising complaint today over misleading ads by the Shrine Circus appearing on Toronto Transit Commission vehicles.
The transit ads promote the Shrine Circus’ 2016 summer “Spectac!” tour in Southwestern Ontario and the GTA, and feature the image of an elephant in the midst of a circus performance, representing explicitly to ad viewers that elephant acts will be present in Shrine Circus shows. In reality, there will be no elephant performances this year; the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) cancelled permits on April 21, 2016 for two endangered Asian elephants named Shelley and Marie to be transported to from the U.S. to Canada for use in the Shrine Circus.
The cancellations come after Tarzan Zerbini, the U.S.-based circus contractor that provides elephant acts to the Shrine Circus, was found to have fallen far short of its promised financial contribution to elephant conservation, which was a condition of permits being issued in the first place. The investigation into Tarzan Zerbini’s verifiable contributions was prompted by a U.S. lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The Animal Justice complaint was filed today with Advertising Standards Canada, a national advertising self-regulatory body that hears and adjudicates complaints over false and misleading advertisements.
“The Shrine Circus ads deliberately mislead the public and conceal the truth, which is that elephants won’t be forced to perform in Canada this year,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Shrine Circus contractor Tarzan Zerbini failed to meet even the minimal standards in place for permits to export these endangered Asian elephants. Rather than clinging to exploitative and outdated elephant performances, it’s time for the Shrine Circus to follow in the footsteps of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey, which finally abandoned elephant acts for good this year.”
There is a growing public sentiment that it is unacceptable to confine elephants in zoos and force them to perform in circuses. Most Canadian zoos and many American zoos have sent their elephants to sanctuaries, including the Toronto Zoo, recognizing that elephants have complex social and behavioural needs that cannot be met in captivity.
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Animal Justice’s complaint to Advertising Standards Canada can be read here.
A high-resolution image of the misleading transit ad can be downloaded here.
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