LA City Council voted unanimously today to ban the use of bullhooks and “other implements and tools designed to inflict pain for the purpose of training and controlling the behavior of elephants” in circuses and traveling shows within the county.
For those who need a refresher, bullhooks are used as “guides” and training tools on elephants in circuses. It’s a rod with a sharp hook at the end that is used to strike elephants into submission, to teach them tricks and keep them in line. According to PETA, trainers will hook the elephants in their most sensitive areas, such as their ears and mouths. The rod part of the bullhook is also used on their wrists and ankles. “When the lights come up under the big top, the trainers, who have spent countless hours “breaking” and abusing elephants behind the scenes where audiences can’t see, threaten the frightened animals with bullhooks until they scramble onto tiny stools or perform other tricks to escape the threat of pain,” explains PETA.
Naturally, circus organizers aren’t too pleased with the council’s decision.
“We’ve been taking care of exotic animals, including Asian elephants, for almost 144 years. We really, really are proud of the animal care we provide. Sadly, this ordinance before the City Council we feel is just being driven by a small, vocal group of animal rights activists who are against animals and entertainment whether they’re elephants or any other animal,” said Stephen Payne, vice president of Field Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. “Really what this bill does is it bans the use of the guide for our circus. We’ll be unable to bring Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey back to the city of Los Angeles.”
Hmm… Seems to me that if someone was so “proud” of the “animal care” they provided, they wouldn’t use a bullhook in the first place, and they would also be happy to find a more humane alternative. Like, say, not using animals in circuses in the first place? Still, considering we don’t live in a circus-free world, this ban is a HUGE step forward. This makes Los Angeles the largest city in the country to ban the bullhook.
“This is a smart and humane measure and should be adopted,” wrote the Los Angeles Times in an editorial in support of the ban. “If the circus can’t come to town without bullhooks, then it shouldn’t come.” Precisely!
Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said: “Devices that cause pain and suffering have no place in the handling of captive elephants. We commend the Los Angeles City Council for taking steps to protect these highly intelligent and social animals from inhumane and outdated training methods.”
The only downside to this news is that it could take up to three years for the ban to take full effect. It’s hard to be patient while waiting for a big change, especially a change that should have come a long time ago.
Photo credit: PETA