Virginia Governor Signs Bill Banning Bullhooks; PETA Cheers!

For Immediate Release:
April 3, 2024

David Perle 202-483-7382

Richmond, Va.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has just signed House Bill 1531, a ban on the use of bullhooks—heavy weapons resembling a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end—which are used to poke, prod, and “break” elephants so that they’ll perform tricks or carry multiple people on their backs. The bill, introduced by Del. Kathy Tran (D-18th District) at PETA’s request, was inspired in part by the plight of Asha, the African elephant who was captured in her native home of Zimbabwe as a baby and who endured isolation and exploitation for decades at the notorious Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge County, where her handler consistently carried a bullhook to remind her of the pain he would inflict on her if she didn’t obey his commands. Below, please find a statement from PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch:

Today, Virginia is a kinder, safer place for elephants, thanks to Del. Kathy Tran’s passion and work to protect them from being tormented and terrorized with bullhooks, weapons often used by circuses and roadside zoos to beat captive elephants into submission. PETA is proud to call Virginia our home and encourages other states to follow its compassionate lead by banning these wretched weapons.

A PETA undercover investigation into Ringling Bros. circus—which shut down after extensive PETA campaigns, before announcing a return without the use of  animals—exposed how bullhooks are used to terrorize elephants before they’re forced to “perform.” Another PETA exposé uncovered that a Carson & Barnes Circus employee viciously attacked elephants with a bullhook and instructed trainers to sink and twist it into the animals’ flesh until they screamed in pain. Use of the weapon is prohibited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the leading accrediting body for zoos and other such facilities in the U.S.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit or follow the group on X, Facebook, or Instagram.

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