Last week it was announced that the Royal Hanneford Circus—plagued by annual protests and recurring political pressure to school administrators—would not be returning to Michigan State University’s Breslin Events Center.
In 2008, MSU’s animal rights group spearheaded a campaign to get the event removed from campus. The initiative involved letter-writing campaigns to college and local newspapers, a petition in the form of a Facebook group, an assertive speech to the MSU Board of Trustees, and culminated in a student-organized protest that drew over 80 participants and multiple news organizations. This effort, organized by a handful of dedicated undergraduates, was enough to have the circus canceled the following year, after almost 20 years of uninterrupted Lansing appearances.
Pressure from the Michigan Farm Bureau and other agriculture lobbies killed trustee support for a circus ban, but SPAR’s work pressed on by repeating the annual protests and enlisting the help of national animal protection groups like PETA and HSUS, which helped to pressure the University and made dozens of phone calls to local businesses and advertisers and informing them of Royale Hanneford’s many Animal Welfare Act violations. This barrage of action led to a 35 percent drop in ad revenue and a cancellation of the circus on “economic” grounds.