This morning the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban circus trainers from using bullhooks, baseball bats, ax handles, pitchforks and other tools that are "designed to inflict pain" on their elephants.
Animal rights groups such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have long protested that bullhooks are cruel and unjust, while Stephen Payne, a spokesperson for Feld Entertainment , the parent company for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, argued that the tools are vital to the circus's success.
"We're not going to come to L.A. without our elephants," he said. "The Asian elephant has been a symbol of Ringling Bros. for 144 years. We cannot bring them without using USDA-approved husbandry tools."
Carney Anne Nasser, Counsel with PETA Foundation's Captive Animal Law Enforcement Department told BuzzFeed in an email that the city of Los Angeles has set a new precedent for traveling circus acts.
"Dozens of U.S. localities and international countries are enacting bullhook bans or bans on the use of elephants and other exotic animals in entertainment," she said. "A statewide ban on bullhooks and the prolonged use of chains on elephants is currently pending in the Rhode Island legislature and two localities in Idaho are also considering similar bans."
Nasser also explained that while PETA is against all animals used for entertainment, Los Angeles is the largest city in the country to take a "significant step against the exploitation of elephants."
The new law will go in affect January 2017, giving traveling circuses time to remove the tools from their shows.