SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- (02/02/2018) People flooded into the JQH Arena, excited to see all the acts at the opening night of the Carden Circus. However, not everyone was there to see the animals, as some were there to speak for them.
Over 30 animals are under the big top at the largest circus in the country, performing tricks and bringing smiles to faces young and old.
"We have tigers, we have elephants, we have dogs, we have horses, we have ponies, we have Arabian horses. The show is a great show," said the owner of the circus, George Carden.
However, while some were in line to buy tickets, others were lining the street, protesting what they believe to be cruel.
"I'm out here to give a voice to the voiceless as in the animal that are inside the circus right now. People don't make the connection. They're going in for family fun, but they don't realize that the animals inside are being abused," said one of the protestors, Katie Dolan.
Many of the protestors belong to the MSU Animal Rights Club, an organization dedicated to bringing awareness to animal cruelty, which protesters believe is happening right under the noses of thousands of circus-goers.
"We don't want the circus to go away completely, we just want the animal acts to end. He can retire his animals to a sanctuary and still be successful having his circus," said another protester, Jessica Albright.
However, Carden says that his circus is different, and to him, the animals are much more than just part of a show.
"An Asian Elephant costs what a Rolls Royce does. You wouldn't own a Rolls Royce and park it in a mud hole. You take care of it. You park it in the garage, have it washed and take good care of it. They're part of our family 24/7 days a week, 365 days a year. I wish every child was taken care of like we take care of our animals," said Carden.
The circus said that if there comes a time where they are no longer able to use animals in their show, they will adjust. However, for now, they will continue to use them as they say they are following all the laws and treating their animals well.