By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Los Angeles City Council today voted unanimously
to ban the use of bullhooks in wrangling elephants — a move that could
prevent the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from making a stop here.
Bullhooks are “cruel and inhumane, and I would love to see the ban go
into effect tomorrow,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said.
The ban, supported by celebrities such as actress
Sarah Silverman and singer Ke$ha, will not take effect immediately. The 13-0
City Council vote today starts the process for attorneys to begin drafting an
ordinance, which could include a process for phasing in a ban over a three-year
The ban would also bar the use of baseball bats, pitchforks, ax handles
and other goads used in place of bullhooks.
City Councilman Paul Koretz, who proposed the ban, brought a bullhook to
the council chamber. He said it was “considered a dangerous weapon” and
showed his colleagues a video of how they are used on elephants.
Koretz 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
Ringling Bros. said the City Council’s decision “effectively bans
circuses from performing with elephants” in Los Angeles.
“The City Council has taken the extreme step of outlawing the use of
guides, also referred to as ‘bullhooks,’ which is a critical tool that the
circus needs to present elephants
“Today’s decision was unsupported by any evidence or proof of elephant
abuse in Los Angeles, and more importantly, it did not implement any measures
that would improve the welfare of animals. Instead, it will deprive families of
the right to take their children to see live animals at the circus,” according
to a Ringling Bros. spokesman.
Circuses must also adhere to strict laws against animal abuse and
subject themselves to inspections by the state and the city, the statement
The Ringling Bros. is booked at Staples Center until 2016, according to
“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.