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Issues, Legislation

NhRP Testifies in Support of Massachusetts Bill to End Use of Elephants in Circuses

By Nonhuman Rights

Today in Boston, NhRP Executive Director Kevin Schneider testified in support of Bill S.2028, which would prevent the use of elephants and other wild animals in circuses in Massachusetts. Kevin also joined other advocates at a rally in front of the State House steps. Below is Kevin’s statement:

My name is Kevin Schneider. I am the Executive Director of the Nonhuman Rights Project and an attorney barred in New York, and I was born and raised in Boston. On behalf of the Nonhuman Rights Project and our Massachusetts supporters, I am here to express our strong support for Bill S.2028, an act to end the use of elephants, big cats, primates, and bears in traveling exhibits and shows.

Wild animals live complex, emotionally rich lives in their natural habitats where they can engage in innate behaviors that are necessary for them to survive and thrive. In contrast, animals in circuses face a bleak existence where they are subjected to beatings, psychological torment, and perpetual isolation. They are deprived of their liberty, forced to live in cages and trailers, and prohibited from moving about freely or engaging in behavior that is natural to them. These animals live vastly shorter lives than their wild counterparts. Their lives are filled with immeasurable cruelty and suffering, and sadly most of these animals find freedom only in death.

Watching wild animals being forced to perform unnatural tricks does not foster respect or appreciation for wildlife. Rather, it teaches children about subjugation⁠—that it’s acceptable to exploit and mistreat animals for amusement⁠—and provides a distorted understanding of the animals’ natural behaviors. Americans are increasingly signaling their preferences for more compassionate treatment of our fellow creatures, both with their pocketbooks and their choices in entertainment.

Taking the public’s lead on this issue, states across the nation are moving to prevent circuses and other traveling animal acts from exploiting animals. Earlier this month, California joined New Jersey and Hawaii in banning the use of wild animals in circuses. Both New York and Illinois have enacted statewide bans on the use of elephants in circus acts and performances. It’s time for Massachusetts to join these states in banning the use of wild animals in traveling exhibits and shows. This is an urgently needed step to help protect elephants, primates, and other wild animals from human-caused harm. It would also be in keeping with the rich tradition of animal protection laws in the state dating back to the Body of Liberties of 1641.

As Kevin told MassLive, people are “tired of watching elephants and other magnificent creatures being treated like trash and dying in front of them.”

  • Massachusetts residents: call your state representatives and ask them to support H.2934 and S.2028
  • Connecticut residents: call Governor Ned Lamont and your state representative and ask them to publicly call on the Commerford Zoo to send Minnie to an accredited elephant sanctuary.
  • MA residents, CT residents, and people who live outside MA, CT, and/or the US: sign and share our petition urging the Commerford Zoo to release Minnie to an accredited sanctuary. Send a short, polite email to the Commerford Zoo at, urging them to release Minnie to an accredited sanctuary. Help us share the story of Minnie’s plight via social media with the hashtag #FreeTheCommerfordElephants and/or #RumbleForRights.

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