He's joined forces with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and has written a letter to the Shrine's Illustrious Potentate in his home state of Montana.
Here is a news release from the PETA website:
For Immediate Release:Masons | Shriners | Shrine Circus | Freemasonry | PETA | Burning Taper | BurningTaper.com
March 23, 2007
Lisa Wathne 757-622-7382
Billings, Mont. — This morning, Nicholas Trammell, a former Shriner whose great uncle was an imperial potentate in Kansas and whose grandfather's Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite rings Trammell wears to this day, fired off a letter on behalf of PETA to Russell Stoddard, the illustrious potentate of the Al Bedoo Shrine in Billings, urging him to stop using circuses as fundraisers. Trammell, who once won an award for promoting and selling tickets for the El Jebel Shrine Circus in Denver�resigned from the Shriners after learning about the gentle and loving nature of elephants and how these intelligent animals are routinely prodded, struck, and beaten behind the ears by trainers who use steel-tipped bullhooks.
PETA has obtained shocking video footage of a circus trainer, who is featured in several Shrine Circuses, violently attacking elephants with bullhooks as the animals scream and recoil in pain. The trainer instructs the other handlers to make sure that the beatings are always severe and never carried out in view of the public. Big cats and bears are also trained through pain and fear and are "stored" in barren cages when they're not being used.
The Shrine produces circuses by either hiring an existing circus or putting together a collection of animal exhibitors, acrobats, and other acts that perform under the name of the Shrine Circus. In his letter, Trammell suggests that the Shrine replace circuses with fundraisers that have been successful elsewhere, such as golf tournaments, car shows, festivals, and dance-a-thons.
"I have learned that physical punishment has long been the standard training method for animals in circuses," writes Trammell. "As part of the world's greatest philanthropic organization, the Al Bedoo Temple must take a stand and show the world the compassion that the Shrine is famous for by ending its affiliation with circuses that use animals."
For more information, please visit PETA's Web site Circuses.com.
Nicholas Trammell's letter follows.
March 23, 2007
Russell J. Stoddard, Illustrious Potentate
Al Bedoo Shrine
P.O. Box 20673
Billings, MT 59104
Dear Mr. Stoddard,
I am writing to you not only as a former Shriner, but as someone whose family involvement in Shriners goes back several generations. I gladly donated hundreds of hours to work for the El Jebel Shrine in Denver, Colorado, and in 2004, I was awarded the "Jewel of El Jebel" for my work promoting and selling tickets to the circus. My great uncle, who was an imperial potentate in Kansas, would have been proud. My grandfather, whose Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite rings I wear to this day and whose fez and apron are all I have to remember him by, would also have been proud.
It was with a great sense of sadness that I reluctantly dropped my Shrine membership. I came to understand that one of the Shrine's activities was so morally wrong, harmful, and personally objectionable that I decided to follow my conscience and part ways. This activity was the Shrine's use of animals in its annual circus fundraiser. I hope that you will take my experiences to heart and consider bringing Shriners into a more modern era by replacing the circus with humane alternatives.
I joined the Blue Lodge in 2001 and then was accepted as a member of the El Jebel Shrine in 2003. I immediately immersed myself in the charitable works of the temple. I volunteered at the circus office. I sold circus packages. I even sang the national anthem at the circus opening. Ironically, it was during a circus appearance that I had a change of heart about the Shrine promoting the circus. A sweet and kind elephant picked me out of a crowd and went out of her way to nuzzle me and communicate in spite of her handler's instructions. She touched me deeply and made me realize that none of God's creatures, particularly one so beautiful and intelligent, should ever be subjected to the harsh life that she so obviously endured with the circus.
I have since learned that physical punishment has long been the standard training method for animals in circuses. The federal Animal Welfare Act puts no restrictions on what training methods may be used. Bullhooks, whips, tight collars, muzzles, and electric prods are commonly used tools that cause pain and suffering. The tricks that animals are forced to perform are physically uncomfortable and behaviorally unnatural. The animals, most of whom are quite large and naturally active, spend the majority of their lives caged or chained in trailers while traveling from city to city.
I know from experience that Shrine brothers are kind and good men. I hope that you will put aside any defensive feelings and objectively examine the wealth of information that shows what really goes on behind the scenes at circuses. Many Shrine temples raise funds with activities such as golf tournaments, car shows, festivals, and dance-a-thons, activities that are fun for participants and profitable for the temples. As the world's greatest philanthropy, I urge you to show the world the compassion that the Shrine is famous for by ending your affiliation with circuses that use animals.
Very sincerely yours,