By Christina Matthies, People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Dawnwatch.com
As a result of a campaign led by local citizens and activists and educating council members, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban cruel bullhooks. The City Council chairperson looked away after only a few minutes of watching PETA's undercover video of elephants who were beaten with bullhooks, and the council members grimaced as they passed around the PETA whistleblower photos of the baby elephant who was tied down and beaten at Ringling's Florida compound.
Bullhooks—rods with sharp hooks on the end—are used to beat and jab elephants and can be found in the hands of handlers who travel with circuses, including Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Shrine circuses, which have performed annually in L.A.
Make no mistake about it: Bullhooks are weapons. Trainers sink the sharp hooks deep into elephants' ears, mouths, and other sensitive parts where their skin is paper-thin and swing the rods like baseball bats against elephants' wrists and ankles, where there's little tissue to protect their bones from agonizing blows. 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.
"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."
I've just come from the LA City Council meeting where bullhooks were banned from Los Angeles.
Here's the good news: hideous circus elephant training videos were played for the full council and packed chamber, the result being universal disgust and a unanimous vote. Finally it is becoming common knowledge that circuses that use wild animals are disgusting. That is a big step forward.
The bad news is that there is a 3 year phase in period, giving the circuses plenty of time to learn other ways to terrify their elephants into submission. The bullhook itself is not the issue. While we are thrilled that Los Angeles has acknowledged there is a problem and has at least done something, we urge activists in other cities not to try to emulate this ban but to model themselves on the countries that have banned wild animal acts altogether. It can be done.
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