Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal

Last week, Los Angeles took one giant step toward banning the use of elephants at Ringling Bros.Barnum & Bailey Circus, and other traveling circus shows.

On Tuesday, the LA City Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee—urged by the Los Angeles-based Animal Defenders International (ADI)—voted to send the full Council legislation banning the use of elephants and bullhooks, the sharp implements used to control them, in traveling shows and exhibits.

Ringling Bros. circus elephants are seen strolling along 11th Street in Downtown Los Angeles on their way to Staples Center for performances (July 19, 2005). Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

The measure, drafted by Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS), provides three different options: The first would be an ordinance that bans the use of elephants in traveling shows and exhibitions. The second would prohibit “any public performance-related context the use of bullhooks (aka guides or ankuses), baseball bats, axe handles, pitchforks and other implements and tools designed to inflict pain for the purpose of training and controlling the behavior of elephants.” The third would ban both elephants and tools like bullhooks.

Bullhooks are supposedly used as nothing more than a guide for the animals, but they are a major source of circus elephant abuse as these tools are often used to inflict pain and establish dominance in order to force elephants to perform tricks.

The 2-0 vote followed expert testimony and a video documenting brutal treatment of circus elephants.

“Frankly, it made my blood boil,” said Councilman Paul Koretz in a statement. “The video was shot undercover and it showed traveling circus elephants being struck viciously with a bullhook, over and over again, for no apparent reason.”

While the LAAS wanted to make elephants a priority, the department has acknowledged that the city’s goal is to eventually ban all wild animals from circus acts.

“This is great news for elephants who are forced to perform in traveling circuses,” said Catherine Doyle, the Los Angeles-based director of science, research and advocacy for the Performing Animal Welfare Society. “Los Angeles considers itself a progressive city, and this will take us to the next level.”

Photo Credit: Flickr: dirkjanranzijn

ADI presented 4,000 signatures asking the Council to ban any circus from the city’s borders that uses any wild animal—from monkeys to bears—as a performer.

The non-profit’s press release reports: “LA Animal Services acknowledged that the aim should be to eliminate all wild animals in circuses, but sought to address the issue of elephants as an urgent priority.”

“We hope that this move will completely eliminate elephants from circuses that visit Los Angeles. It is not just the physical abuse these animals endure but the confinement and deprivation of being forced to live in city center car lots when the circus comes to town. It is completely inappropriate to keep elephants with traveling circuses and that was acknowledged at (the) meeting,” said Tim Phillips, Vice President of ADI.

If the ban is passed, Los Angeles will join alongside progressive nations such as the UK, which promised to implement a ban on the use of any wild animal in a traveling circus nearly eight months ago.

Sign the petition urging Los Angeles City Council Members to restrict the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

What You Can Do

Sign the ADI’s petition urging LA City Council to ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, contact Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council today. Click here for a list of LA City Council members as well as their contact information.

Sign the petition calling on the USDA to revoke Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus’ exhibitors’ license and carry out a full investigation.