SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Carden Circus calls Springfield home. It has been in business for nearly 60 years.
Protestors were outnumbered by circus-goers, but brought their message outdoors. Laura Umphenour was among them.
"It's just old school," said Umphenour. "There is a lot of cruelty that goes on behind the scenes in circuses with regard to the animals."
But, Brett Carden, co-owner of the circus, says there is a misconception when it comes the animals.
"They act like because some people abuse their animals all people do or that elephants cant be in human care and taken care of which is false," said Carden.
But protesters are not convinced.
"I could see the trainers holding a bull hook, a bull hook is like razor on the end of a stick, he hits them, he taps them in some very tender places", says Umphenour.
We have a tool that is called an ankus, its a guide to basically, to go forward or backwards, we will simply guide the animal by putting it behind the leg of the animal or in front of their leg," said Brett Carden
"Recently they have had issues with their elephants having tuberculosis and that is a welfare violation because they should not be performing under those conditions," says protestor Jessica Albright.
"They get a health certificate every 30 days where an actual vet comes out and inspects the animals and makes sure they're not sick," said says Carden. "For us to actually cross state lines, you gotta have that as well."
"If you look into the eyes of these animals you can see that they have emotional distress, elephants don't wobble back and forth like that in the wild, that is signs of emotional distress," says Albright.
"Elephants don't have tear ducts, so when their eyes water, it has to run down the side of their face," says Carden.
Protesters insist they're not killjoys, and encourage people to do their own research about circus animal welfare.
"Animals who are enslaved and did not make this choice to join the circus that's not right," said Albright. "That's cruel, thats barbaric, it needs to stop."