Written by PETA
In light of the new policy issued by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that will minimize contact with
elephants as well as the use of bullhooks in AZA-accredited zoos, PETA is
renewing our call to the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to make
protected contact a requirement for circuses, traveling shows, and non-AZA
With protected contact, there is always a
barrier between handlers and elephants, which is not only more humane but also
much safer for both species. Bullhooks—heavy
batons with a sharp metal hook on the
end—are never used to beat elephants into compliance.
OSHA—whose mandate is
to protect workers—has acknowledged that "the issue of workers exposed to large animals
[is] a serious occupational health and safety concern," but the agency
nevertheless rejected PETA's previous call to require that captive elephants be
managed in the protected-contact system.
Even if OSHA doesn't act, the AZA's policy
an end to dangerous practices like the elephant rides at the Santa Ana Zoo, which are provided by an outfit called "Have Trunk Will Travel"
that has been caught on video beating
elephants with bullhooks. But the policy doesn't fully go into effect until
2014, and elephants can't wait. Please urge Santa Ana Zoo officials
to stop the cruel and dangerous rides without delay.
by Jennifer O'Connor
Elephant advocates are celebrating a new policy by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The policy requires that all AZA-accredited facilities prohibit staff and elephants from being in the same space, with some limited exceptions, by September 2014. This means that elephants in zoos will be protected from handlers (and the abusive instruments they wield) and vice versa.
There are two basic styles of managing captive elephants–‘protected contact’ and ‘free contact. With protected contact, there is always a barrier between handlers and elephants, which is not only more humane but also much safer for both species. In "free contact," the handler is always armed with a sharp, metal-tipped bullhook that they use at will to strike elephants, and elephants know what will happen when they see the bullhook coming. Although the new policy does not require full protected contact, as it has exceptions for things like required health and welfare procedures, it is a giant step in the right direction.
PETA has agitated for protected contact for more than a decade, back to the time when Sissy, an elephant at the El Paso Zoo, snapped under the pressure of captivity and attacked her handler. Allowing trainers armed with bullhooks to be in close proximity to captive elephants can go horribly wrong.
Over the past 20 years, captive elephants in the U.S. have killed 15 people and injured more than 135, often the result of rampages by elephants who have had one beating too many. No deaths and only one injury (from disregarded protocol) have occurred at zoos that use protected contact.
Written by Michelle Sherrow
The owner of an Iowa roadside zoo called "Cricket Hollow" has suffered wounds to his head and torso after being attacked by a tiger there. Cricket Hollow is no stranger to problems: PETA has previously filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the local sheriff's department about filthy conditions and animals who were denied adequate water and shelter, and the unaccredited facility was recently issued an official warning by the USDA for repeatedly failing to provide animals with veterinary care and even clean, adequate, and safe shelter.
PETA routinely calls on all facilities with big cats, elephants, and orcas to adopt the protected-contact (PC) system, which means there is always a barrier between the animal and the handler. Zoos put animals and handlers at risk in free-contact systems. One recent example is the Knoxville Zoo, which was cited by the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration after a keeper was fatally injured by an elephant who had had enough of being “controlled” by a bullhook (the zoo quickly instituted PC for all elephants).
Cricket Hollow has also placed "free tiger" ads in a swapsheet called Animal Finder's Guide, which peddles exotic animals to dealers and exhibitors. The surge in private ownership of big cats has led to an increasing number of attacks.
Please never patronize a roadside zoo or private menagerie. And if your city or town allows people to keep exotic animals as pets, contact PETA's Action Team to learn how to start a campaign to end this dangerous practice.
Written by Jennifer O'Connor
Tennessee officials agreed with PETA that the Knoxville Zoo should be penalized for allowing handlers to come into direct contact with elephants and has recommended $8,400 in fines in connection with the death of a handler earlier this year.
Since the attack, the zoo has switched to a safer and more humane method of managing captive elephants called "protected contact," in which barriers always separate elephants and handlers. Elephants handled through protected contact are never beaten with bullhooks.
It's time for all zoos to move to protected contact, before another elephant who has suffered one beating too many lashes out against the person holding the bullhook. If you live near a zoo that is still using pain, fear, and force to control elephants, such as the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.; Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida; and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California, contact our Action Team for help with launching a campaign to put an end to it.
Great news out of Knoxville: The Knoxville Zoo has decided to permanently employ the protected contact (PC) system to manage the elephants there.
PETA has been urging the zoo to switch to PC, which involves using a barrier such as a metal screen, bars, or a restraint chute to separate elephants and handlers at all times. In PC, handlers don't hit elephants with bullhooks or keep them chained up. Elephants who don't cooperate are never beaten. PC is a far safer and more humane method of managing captive elephants.
If you're planning a summer road trip, please keep in mind that the National Zoo, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom still use bullhooks and chains on elephants—so keep on driving.
PETA has asked officials with Tennessee's Division of Occupational Safety and Health to penalize the Knoxville Zoo for repeatedly allowing handlers to come into direct contact with the elephants there. Handler Stephanie James was crushed to death when an elephant named Edie pushed her into a bar in her enclosure in January.
sdixclifford/cc by 2.0
Despite a previous elephant attack at the zoo that resulted in injuries to at least two other handlers, the zoo refused to switch to the "protected contact" system of handling elephants—a much safer and more humane way of interacting with captive elephants. Protected contact, which is already being used by the majority of the accredited zoos in the country, involves the use of a barrier between elephants and handlers at all times. No bullhooks are used to punish and control elephants.
Zoos that have switched to protected contact report that the elephants' freedom to make choices about their lives has had a dramatic impact on the elephants' emotional well-being and reduces their aggression. The elephants are far more relaxed and content, and the system is far safer for zoo employees as well. The risk of human injury or death is nearly eliminated since there is little actual human-elephant contact.
After James' death, the Knoxville Zoo temporarily implemented protected contact. Let's hope that our call for action will prompt the zoo to make that change permanent.
Bullhooks are heavy batons with a sharp metal hook and point on the end. If someone routinely smacked you with one, wouldn't you eventually fight back? Video footage taken at the Toledo Zoo shows that a young elephant named Louie did just that: He charged his bullhook-wielding keeper, leaving him hospitalized with serious injuries. In the video, Louie is shown backing away when he sees keeper Don RedFox approaching him with a bullhook. Louie then turns around and charges at RedFox after RedFox jabs him with the implement.
The Toledo Zoo still uses the archaic free-contact elephant-handling system. In free contact, elephants are dominated and punished with force, and that puts keepers at constant risk. The zoo's use of the free-contact system has previously been discussed in Toledo. The zoo failed to act on a July 8, 2005, "Lucas County Commissioners Special Citizens Task Force for the Zoo Final Report" that confirmed that keepers have been injured under the current free-contact system. Now we are asking the zoo's board of directors to allow us to bring in a team of elephant experts who can train zoo staff to eliminate the use of bullhooks and transition to a protected-contact system, which more than half the accredited zoos in the country already use.
For the elephants' well-being and for the safety of zoo employees, please join us in asking the Toledo Zoo to eliminate cruel and outdated circus-style handling.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
Follow PETA on Twitter!
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.