Join PETA in Thanking Del. Tran for Working to Protect Elephants!

A bullhook is a weapon used to terrorize, punish, and control elephants and break their spirits. It is steel-tipped, resembles a fireplace poker, and weighs about as much as a baseball bat. During “training”—which starts when baby elephants have just been prematurely separated from their distressed mothers—handlers strike, jab, poke, prod, and beat the animals. Trainers sink a sharp bullhook deep into sensitive areas around their mouth and eyes, behind their ears, inside their trunk, and in tender spots under their chin and around their feet.

PETA’s undercover investigation into Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus—before our historic victory that led to the retirement of its long-suffering elephants—caught horrific abuse of elephants backstage, including in Virginia. Disturbing footage shows circus workers violently beating elephants with bullhooks right before they were forced to go on stage.

Elephants are thoughtful and contemplative and are known for having an amazing memory and sophisticated cognitive abilities, including social communicationtool construction and usecreative problem-solvingempathy, and self-recognition. Elephants never forget. So although handlers don’t typically beat them within public view, those used for rides and performances have been thoroughly conditioned from infancy to fear the weapon and comply.

HB 1531, introduced by Del. Kathy Tran (D-18), would ban the use of bullhooks in Virginia.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the leading accrediting organization for reputable zoos in the U.S., announced a policy in 2019 that banned the use of bullhooks and now favors protected contact: safe, humane handling techniques that emphasize positive reinforcement and allow elephants to express natural behavior without the threat of violence or domination.

Last week, HB 1531 was reported by the House Agriculture Subcommittee. The bill will be voted on by the Agriculture Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, February 7, at 9 a.m. Please join us in thanking Del. Tran for her work on bringing this vital bill before the committee!

You can also call Del. Tran’s offices at 703-539-2066 and 804-698-1018 to voice your gratitude and approval!

 Here are some suggested points to include:

  • You are a constituent of the 18th District and care about animal rights and protection.
  • You are grateful for Del. Tran’s efforts to ban the use of bullhooks in Virginia.
  • You will continue to follow the issue as the bill is voted on in committee and, hopefully, in the full House.
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