Los Angeles bans bullhooks used to control circus elephants

Elephants from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus line up for a photo under the Brooklyn Bridge in the Brooklyn Borough of New York, March 20, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Dana Feldman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles has banned the use of bullhooks, pitchforks, baseball bats and other goads that circus trainers use to control elephants and other exotic animals, delighting campaigners and angering showmen. Animal rights groups such as PETA and celebrities - including actress Kristen Bell, comedian Sarah Silverman and singer Ke$ha - have campaigned against the use of the prods that they say amounts to torture, Los Angeles City News Service said. The ban, passed unanimously by the city council on Wednesday, takes effect in January 2017, a delay meant to give circuses time to change how they handle elephants or remove them from the shows, which draw audiences of 100,000. Stephen Payne, spokesman for circus operator Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, said the law was "completely unnecessary" and would force the cancellation of Los Angeles circus events, although City News Service quoted him as saying that the circus may move to a venue outside the city limits. "Our elephants are the No. 1 reason people come to see the Greatest Show on Earth," he was quoted him as saying. "We're not just going to drop them off when we play Los Angeles." Council members said that zoos, including the main one in Los Angeles, have stopped using the spike-tipped bullhooks amid sweeping evidence that they cause physical and psychological harm to elephants and other exotic animals. Using bullhooks is "inhumane and unhealthy", said city councillor Paul Koretz, who said he voted in favor of the ban after a video was shown to the council that highlighted elephant training tactics and exercises he said were "cruel". "The circus is welcome in Los Angeles, just without the bullhooks," Koretz said. "We're hoping that they follow the model of other circuses that don't use exotic animals." (Reporting by Dana Feldman in Los Angeles; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Louise Ireland)