In a move closely related to the epochal Mar. 5 announcement from Ringling Bros.that it plans to phase out the use of elephants in its traveling shows, California state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has introduced SB 716, a bill to prohibit the use of bullhooks on elephants in California. The cities of Los Angeles and Oakland passed such bans some months ago, and both of these actions were instrumental in driving the Ringling decision, according to the company's own press statement. Now state lawmakers and California's humane-minded governor, Jerry Brown, have the opportunity to end the practice throughout California, which already gets top marks in our annual ranking of states on the strength of its animal welfare policies.
Bullhooks are used to dominate elephants, specifically by using the implement to poke, prod, and hit elephants on their sensitive skin. Both ends of the bullhook - which is a blend of a bat and a fireplace poker - are used to inflict damage. The hook, which can be wielded ruthlessly, is capable of producing puncture wounds and lacerations. When the hooked end is clasped, the handle can double as a club. Just brandishing the bullhook provides a constant reminder to elephants of the painful punishment that can be meted out against them at the whim of their handlers.