Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Oakland joins LA in banning circus elephant tool

December 18, 2014 Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. The circus will stop coming to Oakland in a few years after a tool used by elephant handlers was banned in the city.

The Oakland City Council earlier this week unanimously approved an ordinance outlawing bullhooks. The instrument resembles a fireplace poker, with a sharp hook on one end that is used by trainers to control the animals. Oakland is now the second California city, after Los Angeles, to ban the use of a bullhooks.

The circus will stop performing in Los Angeles in summer 2016 following the approval of its ban in the spring. The Oakland ban takes effect in 2017. "(That) will be the last time we will be in Oakland because we can't perform without the elephants," said Stephen Payne, spokesman for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

But the circus is still holding out hope about having future performances in Oakland. "We may see if the Oakland City Council wants to reconsider," he said. Payne said the move is a loss for people who enjoy the circus. An estimated 30,000 people attended the Oakland circus over six days last summer, he said.

The Oakland Zoo and animal rights activists supported the ordinance, saying bullhooks are cruel and inhumane. Nationwide, more than 40 municipalities have passed full or partial restrictions, according to the Oakland ordinance. More than 30 countries have passed national restrictions. People for the Ethical Treatment and its celebrity supporters also are behind the ban.

In a statement before the vote, hip-hop music mogul Russell Simmons said he has observed elephants tending to their young and "living in peace" in their natural habitat in South Africa. "The magnificent animals I encountered weren't performing headstands or standing on tubs like they do at the circus, where they're routinely beaten with bullhooks," he said.

Proponents say the tool is designed to give trainers dominance over elephants and does not hurt or harm the animal. "A lot of the information that was presented to the Oakland City Council by the proponents was designed to distort our animal care," Payne said.