Ringling Challenges Atlanta Bullhook Ban

Published by Michelle Kretzer.

In June, the Board of Commissioners of Fulton County, Georgia, at the urging of PETA, Demi Moore, local citizens, and other animal advocates, banned the use of bullhooks, fireplace poker–like goads that are used to beat and hook elephants in sensitive areas of their bodies in order to make them obey commands. This meant that if Ringling Bros. wanted to bring the Cruelest Show on Earth to Atlanta, it would have to leave behind the torture devices that the elephants fear.

But with its Atlanta shows scheduled to start this week, Ringling, knowing that it can’t control the elephants without bullhooks and so would have to leave the pachyderms out of the ring, filed a plea for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the ban on Monday afternoon, claiming that there was no specific intergovernmental agreement between Fulton County and the city of Atlanta and that the ban did not apply in the city. To everyone’s surprise, Ringling got its way, and the TRO was granted.

PETA has issued the following statement:

The legislation banning bullhooks was passed because of a serious commitment by the citizens and commissioners of Fulton County to prohibit this sort of animal abuse in their community. The Municipal Code of Atlanta very clearly incorporates all of the Fulton County animal control ordinances—including the bullhook ban. PETA is concerned that the clearly worded prohibition and the wishes of Fulton County citizens have been disregarded without a proper legal basis. Bullhooks, as admitted by Ringling trainers and executives, are used to beat, jab, hook, and yank elephants in order to force them to obey. There are only two uses for a bullhook: to inflict pain and to instill a fear of pain. While a ban on the use of bullhooks is an important step in the right direction, it is now clear that anyone who cares about elephants and other captive exotic animals must make the compassionate decision never to attend a circus that uses animals.

Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts issued a statement saying he believes that there was an implied agreement between Atlanta and Fulton County and that the ban should be upheld.

Compassionate people are making their voices heard, and they will continue until the beatings under the big top stop.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind