UPDATE: We are excited to update you that Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has listened to pleas for compassion and has issued an executive order banning the use of county facilities from hosting cruel circuses which exploit wild animals.
Earlier this year, UARC wrote a letter to Salt Lake County officials urging them to take action to prevent cruel animal-exploiting circuses from returning to our community and utilizing our taxpayer-funded facilities. We sent a similar letter to representatives of Davis County, Washington County, and Utah Valley University, all of which lease their facilities to the Jordan World Circus, a notoriously abusive circus that still exploits wild elephants and tigers.
Fortunately, our letter to Salt Lake County officials did not fall on deaf ears. We were soon contacted by representatives from County Mayor Jenny Wilson’s office, informing us that the county had decided, at least for this year, to not issue a permit to Jordan World Circus if they used exotic animals in their circus act. This was the first year such action had ever been taken. Faced with the prospect of not coming to the county at all, as first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, Jordan World agreed to keep these animals out of the performance in Salt Lake County.
Despite the County’s laudable decision, Jordan World still traveled through Northern Utah, with their wild animals in tow. A UARC investigator documented troubling conditions at some of their Utah performances, with photographs showing confined, stressed, and depressed elephants and tigers, and elephant handlers wielding sharp, painful weapons known as “bullhooks” around the elephants. We need to work harder until these animals are spared this grueling life of being trucked from city to city. They should be in suitable sanctuaries, with a naturalistic habitat that is measured in square acres rather than square feet.
Salt Lake County’s decision earlier this year is a meaningful step in the right direct action. However, if more decisive action isn’t taken soon, it could be a fleeting victory. Future county officials or administrators could lawfully make a different discretionary decision to issue a permit. Salt Lake County needs to implement a more permanent written county ordinance or policy against such cruel circus acts, to make sure the gains we’ve made for animals are preserved. UARC supporters packed a County Council meeting back in February to urge the County Council to do so. We were told at the time that such a policy would likely be forthcoming soon. Over the months, UARC followed up with the County on a number of occasions. But to date, we still don’t have such a policy.
It may seem like such a policy isn’t needed at this time in light of the effect COVID-19 has had on mass gatherings. However, many rodeos have continued as normal during the pandemic, and Governor Herbert’s guidelines for most of Utah still allow indoor gatherings in fixed venues with up to 3,000 people in attendance. Jordan World Circus never sees this level of attendance for a single performance, so they could still return to Salt Lake County in a few months and be as “successful” as ever. This is where we need your help.
Most especially if you are a Salt Lake County resident, please click here and take a few moments to urge the county to permanently ban exotic animal circus performances. Salt Lake County could achieve this policy goal in one of two ways — either a written county ordinance, passed by the County Council, or an executive order issued by Jenny Wilson, similar to the order issued earlier this year concerning background checks at gun shows. UARC would wholeheartedly support either approach.
We would like to thank the countless demonstrators and supporters who have protested Jordan World Circus in the freezing cold year after year, and also those who have attended public hearings or spoken up on social media. We are on the precipice of a historic victory, and I truly believe with a slight push we will get over the finish line!