LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously today
to ban the use of “bullhooks” and other types of goads and prods employed
in wrangling elephants in circuses and other shows.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell previously called the use of bullhooks
“cruel and inhumane.” Celebrities such as actress Kristen Bell, comedian
Sarah Silverman and singer Ke$ha were among those who supported the ban.
The ordinance, which was approved without discussion, will take effect
in January 2017. It makes it illegal in the city to use bullhooks, baseball
bats, ax handles, pitchforks and other similar tools to cause pain in
elephants. The goads — or instruments made to look like bullhooks — also
cannot be shown or brandished “for the purpose of training or controlling the
behavior of the elephant.”
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey spokesman Stephen Payne called the
ban “completely unnecessary and unfair” and said animal-rights advocates have
little understanding of how to handle “an 8,000 pound Asian elephant.”
Circuses must also adhere to strict laws against animal abuse and
subject themselves to inspections by the state and the city, according to a
statement issued by Ringling Bros. in October, when the council voted to begin
the process of banning the bullhooks.
When the ban goes into effect, it will “effectively prevent Ringling
Bros. from bringing the circus to Staples Center,” Payne said.
“Our elephants are the number-one reason people come to see the
`Greatest Show on Earth,”’ he said. “We’re not just going to drop them off
when we play Los Angeles.”
Payne said they would need to move their circus, which draws 100,000
attendees, to a venue outside the city limits, but hopes to come to a
“mutually acceptable compromise” with the city.
Ringling Bros. is booked at Staples Center until 2016, according to
City Councilman Paul Koretz, who proposed the ban, said he investigated
the issue with an “open mind,” but based on “compelling evidence” from
advocates of humane animal treatment, and after circus representatives failed
to meet with him, he decided the hooks needed to be banned.
“This is not a vote against circuses,” Koretz said. “The circus is
welcome in Los Angeles, just without bullhooks.”
Koretz said the sharp implements — which resemble walking canes with a
curved spike on one end — can cause injuries and “is only effective because
the elephant has been taught to associate it with pain and fear to repeated
poking and prodding to sensitive parts of the body — sometimes drawing
“Times are changing,” Koretz said. “We know so much more now about
elephants and their intelligence, sensitivity and emotional natures. We know
they suffer not only physically, but psychology.”
That is why the Los Angeles Zoo, elephant sanctuaries and
“progressive” zoos have stopped using the hooks, he said.