Organizing a Circus Protest


Circuses are incredibly abusive to their animal performers, who are often mistreated, kept in cramped conditions, and are tortured in order to learn how to perform tricks. Sadly, they travel all around the world offering cheap entertainment to people who often aren’t aware of the abuses they perpetuate. Organizing a demonstration against a circus is incredibly useful in helping spread the word and getting people who are attending to realize what they’re participating in. This page is meant as a “how to” guide to organize a demonstration against a circus.

The Weeks Leading Up to the Circus

  • Contact an organization to get free supplies, including posters, stickers, etc. While we do not support PETA’s reformist initiatives we do recommend that in a pinch to get free supplies to organize your demonstration with. You can contact them here.  If you let them know when the event is scheduled for they will often ensure delivery of materials before the event even if it’s a short time frame. We particularly recommend the coloring books that PETA makes available. It’s a great way to reach out to children and if you include some crayons parents find it hard to not let their child pick up a coloring book that will inform them what they are actually seeing.
  • Create a facebook event page and advertise the event, providing links and information on the abuses that take place at the circus. This will help people gain the necessary knowledge to inform people at the demonstration so that way they can answer questions. If you can find information against the specific circus coming to town that is useful. A list of many of the most popular circuses and recent citations for abuse can be found here.
  • Create an online petition that automatically e-mails local governmental officials every time sometime signs the petition. You can do this on Include a link to the petition on any materials you plan on handing out at the event and advertise the petition on facebook.
  • Create your own literature and pamflet with information to distribute at the event. While we encourage you to make use of the free resources out there, you will connect more with patrons if you design your own and make it personal to your local area. Too many people perceive PETA, ICAS, and many other organizations as being too radical. If you make you’re own you don’t have to worry about it. You can see what a sample self-made pamflet looks like here: Front of Pamflet ; Back of Pamflet.
  • Write letters to the editor, contact news outlets informing them of the day/time of the demonstration, and post flyers around town advertising the demonstration. Circuses often advertise at libraries, coffee shops, and bus depots so it is useful to put up a sign anywhere that the circus might advertise as well.

The Day of the Demonstration

  • Show up at least 30 minutes before you announced the start time to get set up and greet people who will be joining you. If you are providing coloring books and crayons, it’s not a bad idea to set up a kids coloring table with some free stickers as well. The longer you can get the kids to stay engaged the easier it will be to connect with the adults.
  • Don’t forget to bring your literature, signs, coloring books, etc with you when you organize. Always bring extra since it’s better to have left overs than leave half way through. Think of easy chants to tell people at your demo, such as “there’s no excuse for animal abuse,” as well as quick facts that they can tell people who are passing by.
  • Do be assertive, but don’t be aggressive. At circus protests you have a mix of kids and adults. Many people who attend are from lower incomes who go because of the cheap tickets circuses provide, which is why animal treatment is so abysmal. Don’t demonize the patrons. Demonize the circus. It’s useful to offer alternative forms of cheap entertainment in the area that is more family-friendly.
  • Send out a press release the morning of the demonstration to all local media outlets. If they don’t show up, take photos and videos, and then send them a press release after the conclusion of the event. Oftentimes they will print your press release if they don’t show up in person. You can read tips on how to make a good press release here.


  • You are unlikely to prevent people who already bought tickets from going. Your goal is to get them to not buy tickets next time. You do this by giving them the needed information so as they watch the circus they can see and recognize the abuse as it’s happening.
  • Like all activism, the point is long-term change and sustained awareness. Don’t get disheartened. If you are out there people will see you, hear you, and listen even if they don’t want to. Your presence makes a difference. Keep up the good work!
  • It’s worthwhile to collect names and contact information of people who show up to your demonstration. Get together with them socially afterwards. They can form the basis for future demonstrations, actions, and social networks that can help promote animal liberation into the future.
  • If you need any help, don’t hesitate to contact the Practice IRC Chair. We are here to help you and make your demonstration a successful one!

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