Animal rights organization protests circus

Animal rights organization protests circus

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

As the Tarzan Zerbini Circus unpacks at Machesney Park Mall this weekend, Animal Watch Illinois members who find circuses hard to bear will protest outside the big top.

The protest will occur from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. during the first show, on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, a movie truck from the traveling organization Shark will let the cat out of the bag as it reveals what it considers cruelty toward animals behind the scenes in circuses on a movie screen. They will show the footage on a large screen as patrons enter the circus. For more information, look online at

Animal Watch member Barb Nozzi, an outspoken animal rights advocate, wanted to make clear that Animal Watch members aren’t opposed to the Tebala Shrine, which is sponsoring the circus; they oppose the fact that they use non-native animals for shows.

“Our point is that the life of the animals in the circus is a totally unnatural life,” she indicated.

She said that people will give to the charitable organization regardless of whether they show wild animals.

Craig Sand, circus director for Tebala Shrine, responded to Nozzi’s comments. “These are not wild animals,” Sand said. “These animals were bred and raised in captivity. They were raised and bred for a specific purpose: entertainment. They’re not taken from the wild. There’s another case where they twisted the truth.”

Sand said he has invited the group several times in the nine years that he’s been with Tebala to see the trainers interact with animals. He explained that Animal Watch members have the right to protest, but he disagrees with their tactics.

“I fully respect their views,” he said. “This is America. My problem is when they spread their word, they don’t use the whole truth. I don’t think animals are abused. They haven’t taken the time to see how the animals are treated.”

Animal Watch also alleges it documented

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an array of incidents with the Tarzan Zerbini Circus. In April 1999, a 27-year-old circus employee was hospitalized after an elephant seriously injured him during an appearance.

“That particular employee was drunk,” Sand affirmed. “I know the employee came in drunk and started to abuse the elephant. He brought it upon himself. They neglected to add that.”

Also, Animal Watch alluded to an incident in which a white tiger appeared with the circus in Rockford in 1997, and six months later attacked and killed its trainer in Florida. Six weeks after the incident, it attacked and killed its owner. Sand said that in the last incident, the tiger was at the home of the owner, and dogs had been taunting it.

“I feel terrible because the two people that were killed were personal friends of mine,” he said. “Accidents happen.”

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