Animal-based circus performance draws scorn and protest by local residents

Eureka, CA – On Friday, May 12th, a group of local community members led by Humboldt county-based resident, Sierra O’Leary, will come together to protest an event held by Culpepper and Merriweather Circus at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds.

“We believe it is important to expose the truth of what circus animals endure,” says Sierra O’Leary. “Individuals who attend circuses are often unaware of the rampant cruelty that exists and the deplorable living conditions and misery the animals suffer. With our protest, we endeavor to shine a light on this abuse and give the animals confined to circus life a voice.”

Currently there is a worldwide movement to end the use of animals in circuses. Several countries and U.S.-based universities have successfully banned circuses that utilize animal acts after learning that, in the hands of their “trainers”, the animals endure repeated and prolonged suffering. Whips, tight collars, and electric prods are used to force the animals into doing unnatural postures like standing on their hind legs or performing synchronized movements. Nearly all circuses have a long history of abuse, neglect, and documented USDA violations of animal cruelty.

Just this last month, Los Angeles voted to ban the exhibition of wild or exotic animals for entertainment, including circuses, and other wild animal shows. This ban builds on a 2014 policy banning the use of bullhooks to handle captive elephants. Other cities that have passed similar bans on the exhibition of wild animals in recent years include the city of San Francisco, and several counties in Idaho, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina. The circus industry recently lost it’s biggest political protector, when the Ringling Brothers announced earlier this year that it was shutting down it’s entire circus, which featured lion and tiger acts, among other wild animals on exhibition. (

Culpepper & Merriweather Circus, which features numerous wild and domestic animals, has failed to meet minimum federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Culpepper & Merriweather several times (dating back from 1991) for failure to provide animals with shelter from the elements, enough space to make normal postural adjustments, and proper veterinary care. Culpepper & Merriweather had a tiger cub confiscated by the USDA, and its license was suspended for six months by an administrative law judge.

According to a court docket, a tiger cub was confiscated from Culpepper & Merriweather in 2008 because USDA inspectors and the USDA’s large-cat expert decided that the cab of the truck where the cub was kept was too hot, his container was too small, he was underweight because of an inappropriate diet, and his living conditions were unsanitary. The cub, Tubbs, was relocated to a USDA-approved facility. The veterinarian at this facility concluded that the cub had worn an ill-fitting harness that had caused skin abrasions, that he was underweight, and that he had sustained a wound near his right eye

Sierra O’Leary pleads with local residents that “Surely we aren’t so desperate for an hour’s worth of entertainment that we’re willing to condemn animals to entire lifetimes of mental and physical suffering, or that we’re willing to teach children that it’s okay to exploit animals for our fleeting pleasure”.

Sierra O’Leary states, “The time when the abuse of other living beings for the purposes of entertainment is over. We call on the residents of Humboldt County to avoid the circus performance (s) being held on May 10th through 11th in Garberville, and May 12th in Eureka, and to join us in letting the public know the real truth of what takes place behind the circus tents.”

Sierra O’Leary:


Visit for the full list of AWA and USDA violations of Culpepper and Merriweather Circus or for more information.





One thought on “Animal-based circus performance draws scorn and protest by local residents

  1. I can’t honestly claim to be “boycotting” this circus, since it’s been probably 40 years since I saw a circus,but the day of circuses has passed. A business I wouldn’t want to be in.

    Liked by 1 person

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