top of page

NM Shriners try and fail to cover up their deceit

February 10, 2024

Elephants Isa and Viola are presently in Albuquerque, New Mexico--where they are NOT wanted--thanks to the New Mexico Shriners.

The city of Albuquerque voted nearly two decades ago to end the use of wild animals in circuses in their city. A brilliantly articulated op-ed piece by Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn shares more detail on that effort. The Shriners circumvented the law by hosting the circus on a state-owned property. Presently the state of New Mexico has no such ban.

In response to Ms. Fiebelkorn's statement, the New Mexico Shriners drafted their own bizarre and misleading op-ed, which seeks to mislead and misdirect by feigning ignorance and using the "but we help sick kids" argument. (Learn more about the Shriner's Circus Scam here.)

We could not let this stand. CWI supports the circus protest taking place in Albuquerque this evening. In addition, we immediately shot off an email to the head of the NM Shriners clarifying a few hard facts for him. You can view the text of our email below.

Additionally, we have reached out to a local NM animal advocacy group seeking to enlist their renewed commitment to working with us on this issue. The circus in question--Jordan World Circus--has many more shows throughout New Mexico in February.

We will not stop until the use of wild animals in traveling entertainment is banished once and for all! Freedom for Isa and Viola from cruel circus life!


Dear Mr. Hathaway and New Mexico Shriners,

I read your recent op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal with concern, and--frankly--amazement.

Either you have been grossly misled, or you are intentionally seeking to mislead with your statements regarding Jordan World Circus.

Jordan World Circus does not engage in the "humane and ethical treatment of animals." In actual fact, they do not own any of the animals they put on display and have no say in how they are treated or otherwise. In actual fact, Jordan World has a long and demonstrated 30 year history of having no care whatsoever for how the acts they hire for their circus treat animals:

You quickly gloss over the fact that there are two elephants in the show, while going on to share that there are no tigers or lions in cages. Does the lack of big cats make it just to show the two elephants? Do you realize that the two elephants in the show, Isa and Viola, are 54 and 58 years old respectively? It is very far from humane to drag around two elephants of that age around the country and force them to do silly tricks and to give rides with hundreds of pounds of weight on their backs.

Recently, Circus World in Wisconsin stopped using elephants and bragged endlessly about how they were to be "retired." They feigned ownership of the elephants in order to make themselves look noble and moral. There are dozens of online articles noting this. Are you aware that one of those elephants they bragged about is Viola, who you have hired to perform in your show? Viola....age FIFTY EIGHT. Viola--who even Circus World--one of the largest circus museums in the world--decided it was time to retire.

You intentionally and without regard for the intent of the laws regarding the use of exotic animals in Albuquerque chose a venue where the elephants could continue to perform, knowing full well that activity was not welcome in Albuquerque. It is an underhanded and vile move, and does not show "compassion" nor demonstrate ethics or morality. And you do it all in the name of keeping your unnecessary clubhouse open. With that, you suggest that the Shriners are in fact NOT committed to its cause and are far more interested in your buddy gatherings than in either compassion or your stated mission. No one needs a clubhouse in order to make change in the world, or to do good deeds for sick children.

So let me tell you what happens next: we'll be letting everyone in your community know about this both now and over the course of the next year. We are promoting the protest that locals are organizing and will be sharing through our international channels the disgrace that the NM Shriners are bringing on the Shrine organization and the hospitals, including making note of the dirty and underhanded way you've gone about it as well as your intentionally deceptive op-ed.

Isa and Viola DO deserve retirement. They have been dragged around for decades and tens of thousands of miles. They have endured beatings and bullhooks, unbearable noise and congestion, and the inability to have any semblance whatsoever of a normal, natural life for an elephant. Elephants---beings, who, in point of fact, are MORE compassionate and empathetic than humans, and certainly more than you ( 

You are complicit in their suffering. Without your interest, Jordan World Circus would not rent Isa and Viola from Carson and Barnes Circus in Oklahoma and therefore they would at least be spared the horrors of traveling circus life.

In summary: shame on you. It's 2024 not 1924...time to turn the page. We are fighting to ensure Isa and Viola are spared from the road...before they die on it, like so many other elephants forced into circus life have and will. 

Do better.


Carrie LeBlanc, M.A.

Executive Director

CompassionWorks International

Writing on behalf of the CWI Board of Directors and our 100,000+ constituents


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page