The Los Angeles City Council passed a new rule banning trainers from the use of bullhooks or others tools “designed to inflict pain” on elephants, according to the Los Angeles Times. The ban also applies to baseball bats, ax handles, pitchforks, and other similar tools used on the animal.
Animal rights activists argue that bullhooks are cruel and abusive. Circus producers have countered that such tools are needed to exhibit the animals safely and that banning them means banning the circus entirely.
"We're not going to come to L.A. without our elephants," said Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, the parent company for Ringling Bros. and Barnum Bailey Circus. "The Asian elephant has been a symbol of Ringling Bros. for 144 years. We cannot bring them without using USDA-approved husbandry tools."
The ban begins in 2017, allowing traveling circuses to either adjust their elephant treatment before then or remove them from their shows.