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'Bullhook' elephant-training tool ban: unanimous LA City Council vote

The LA City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to ban the use of 'bullhooks' for wrangling elephants.
October 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some big changes under the big top in Los Angeles: The city council voted unanimously Wednesday to ban the use of "bullhooks" for wrangling elephants. It's a move that could prevent major circuses from coming to town.

City Hall was packed Wednesday for the 13-0 vote. The crowd included a number of celebrities who support the ban. There were tears in the audience over graphic undercover video reportedly showing elephants being trained. The issue is over bullhooks that are used in the training and management of elephants.

"It is a weapon that is used each and every time a circus trainer works with an elephant in order to compel strict obedience," said L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz.

Ringling Brothers Circus issued a statement that said in part: "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."

Ringling Brothers says its events bring more than a million dollars to the city economy and support more than 1,500 jobs, some at Staples Center.

The ban will be phased in over three years. Councilman Gil Cedillo says that would accommodate existing contracts.

"I'm talking about men and women who have livelihoods that are dependent upon their employment with this activity," said Cedillo.

Activists were disappointed by the delay, but actress and longtime activist Lily Tomlin says it's just the beginning, and that it will spread to other cities.

"It's not everything but you can't get everything in one fell swoop," said Tomlin. "This has been a long time coming and it is a very big step for Los Angeles and to show the rest of the country. I do believe that the wind does blow from west to east, and so does change."

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