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It’s Indisputable: Bullhooks Are on the Way Out

Written by Jennifer O'Connor | December 12, 2014

Update: Just days after Oakland passed a law to prohibit bullhooks, Austin’s City Council voted unanimously to have its legal counsel draft a bullhook ban. The ordinance is expected to be ready and voted on in the spring. Austin is poised to join other progressive cities, including Los Angeles and Miami Beach, Florida, in saying no to bullhooks. The day is quickly coming when circuses such as Ringling Bros. will no longer be able to hit and hurt elephants with these barbaric weapons.

Originally published on December 9, 2014:

The Oakland, California, City Council has voted to ban bullhooks! An emergency appeal from Emmy Award winner and elephant advocate Lily Tomlin, along with the support from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, former Oakland Raiders player David Carter, and AFI lead singer Davey Havok, helped to make it happen. It was a nail-biter that came down to the 11th hour, but PETA’s relentless push and Tomlin’s letter to City Council President Rebecca Kaplan urging her to condemn this cruel weapon resulted in a five to two winning vote.

“From one compassionate person to another, I urge you to see through the smoke screens and realize that at the heart of the issue is morality and compassion for another species,” wrote Tomlin.

Baby Elephant Training Photo With Circled Bullhook

Bullhooks—heavy batons with a sharp metal hook on one end—are used to beat and jab elephants. Make no mistake about it: Bullhooks are weapons.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which has performed annually in Oakland, unashamedly defends the use of these devices. Trainers sink the sharp hooks deep into elephants’ ears, mouths, and other sensitive parts where their skin is paper-thin and swing the batons like baseball bats. Elephants quickly learn to obey like automatons or suffer the painful consequences.

The following statements were made by City Council members with regard to the ban:

“This is the right thing to do. It’s just that simple.”
—Council Member and Mayor-Elect Libby Schaaf

“I don’t need to have an elephant stand on one leg to see how cute he looks….I don’t learn about the elephants over at the circus while I’m sitting there entertained…. That’s a show.”
—Council Member Noel Gallo

“I’m convinced beyond any doubt in my mind that [the bullhook] is used often enough that we are right to ban it.”
—Council Member Dan Kalb

“I’m convinced we’re going to move to a time when there won’t be any elephants in circuses.”
—Mayor Jean Quan

PETA is sending a box of elephant-shaped vegan chocolates to Oakland City Council members to thank them for joining other cities across the country—including Los Angeles, which Tomlin also championed—in banning bullhooks.

What You Can Do

Contact us for materials for launching a campaign to get bullhooks banned in your area.

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  • Dayna Duhon says:

    If kids really knew what goes on to these elephants( other animals) believe me they would NEVER ask to go to the circus.one day ya’ ll will have to die and see GOD!!!! Also remember God doesn’t have to come down to whip his presence will be made known.

  • Thank God, bull hooks are on the way out! And thank you, PETA, and all your supporters, and every other voice that was raised against this barbaric weapon. And as far as Barnum and Bailey is concerned, well, they know what they can do with those obsolete bull hooks.

  • Mary says:

    These little animals need their fathers and mothers, but most of all they need love. This is what they ask for. Anything against that is purely inhuman…Each one of us can make a difference and we don’t realize it. Things have to change more towards the better for all of us.

  • prem says:

    Good job PETA! Thanks for the hard work!
    When it comes to promoting and aiding animal cruelty, there are two kinds of people – those that do not know better and those that are making money off these animals. We should all try to fix/correct both.
    We do not own animals, we merely share this world with them.

  • Really good news now so many places are banning the use of bullhooks – more than about time, too.

  • PLEASE people have compassion against torture and pain! Animal’s should be treated humanely too!

  • Pauline Paine says:

    EASY! Don’t go to a circus where animals are used for entertainment.

  • Barbara Burrell says:

    this poor little creature needs its mother more than we need circuses. horrendous, stop NOW

  • Ann Schall says:

    NO animals should be used in circuses or zoos.

  • marianne farrell says:

    Evil,sadistic, brutal people!!!!

  • Carlinda Agrella says:

    Now let’s get all circuses to ban completely the use of elephants for entertainment. Let them live the way God intended… quietly and peacefully!!

  • Bronwen says:

    STOP THE TORTURE of these beautiful animals

  • Reese says:

    Bullhooks should be ban world wide!!!

  • jane nystel says:

    YEA for Oakland!!!

  • not only ban bull hooks but ban all animals in circus and prosecute these animal abusers now!

  • Gilli Sleigh says:

    Yes, I wish and hope that things will one day be as they should be in circuses, in the enlightened 21st century. With absolutely no wild animals being used for human entertainment. I believe that dogs trained purely through positive re-enforcement actually do enjoy performing to please their humans, having been in a working relationship together over hundreds of thousands of years. And are the only animals, other than humans that perhaps should be in circuses, given that they wouldn’t need be kept in tiny stalls and/or trailers, and would interact socially together and with humans.

    Why are we not having a world ban on this………hooray for California, but why aren’t world leaders “World Leaders”…………???????

  • Susan Michie says:

    Ban bullhooks, but also ban the use of animals in circuses, they are not on this planet for our entertainment, it’s a disgrace.

  • ishkabibbul says:

    Why are they trained with -cruelty and not kindness they would get the same result ,I would like to see the circus with no exotic animals -no baby elephants -I swore years ago I would never go to another circus or my children either -it is no place for animals that should be running free -we can see them in the great documentaries that are available not being dragged around from one town to another -free them let them go to a sanctuary.

  • brenda says:

    Thank uuuuu Peta….

  • brenda says:

    Thank uuuu Peta.. thank uuuu Council members of Oakland!!

  • Barbara says:

    2017 too long !!!! look at this poor Baby !!!

  • claire pates says:

    If you care you will stop this torture on gods creatures.

  • monika fidanov says:

    Great news I’m all for animals being where they belong in the wild I absolutely dipise cruelty of any kind job well done you guys yay

  • Laurie McMillan says:

    Please STOP using the bullhooks. They are cruel and inhumane. Thank you from God’s creatures that cannot speak for themselves.

  • Rita Toler says:

    Stop the use of Elephants in the Circus, and stop the bull hooks that they use on them and stop the chaines on all of the legs,

  • Ban the Bull Hook…BAN ANIMALS IN CIRCUSES PERIOD ! OTHER COUNTRIES ARE. ..TOWNS IN THE U.S. ARE…ANIMALS AREN’T MEANT OR MADE TO PERFORM OR BE LIVING THIS KIND OF LIFE

  • one seelapasY says:

    Amen!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!! Elephants should be banned from the circus!! please help roses poor loving animals. thank you!

  • Lisa Groneman says:

    Why is it so hard to ban these sweet animals all together from being in the circus. I can’t believe that other countries don’t even allow the circus to have animals but the U.S. still doesn’t get it. I’m happy for this but 1 city is not enough. Please let’s keep trying to stop the monsters from hurting and abusing these innocent animals.

  • Megan says:

    This is SUCH great news! I’m so happy the council stood for what is right and did not fall prey to Ringling’s threats.

  • Claudia says:

    Thank you, now we need the rest of the world on the same page.

  • Roseanna says:

    Elephants are such highly intelligent animals with the capacity to love each other…other animal species..and humans (but not by choice since they live in captivity in small restricted areas) They also seem to have some kind of telepathic ability as well. On another fb post there was a story of a man who had rescued approximately 20 elephants about 3 years ago.. They were then released into the wild. The man who was their savior lived about 300 miles away. Around about the time the man died elephants started arriving from all over. How do you explain that. They are mystical creatures and should be treated with respect!!

    • michele claire says:

      Yes I agree they are highly intelligent.. memories emotion and some extra sensory. They have far more companion then human animals.