Fulton County Bans Elephant Bullhooks Used by Circuses, but Atlanta Not Included
2011-06-01

By Johnny Edwards
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Ban Bullhooks

Atlanta resident Anna Ware displays a bullhook as she comments before the Fulton County Commission reconsidered an elephant bullhook ban during a meeting on Wednesday, June 1st. She was for the ban and pointed out that her bullhook was confiscated when she went through security so they must consider it a weapon.

Buckhead resident Anna Ware told Fulton County commissioners the debate over whether elephant bullhooks are training tools or instruments of terror was settled when she tried to bring one into their building Wednesday morning.

Security guards seized it as a weapon, and a police detective had to carry it into chambers so she could show what one looks like -- an instrument shaped like a fire poker, topped with a steel claw with two sharpened tips.

The point wasn't lost on the commission, which voted 4-1 to ban the use of bullhooks by circus elephant trainers. Fulton became the first Georgia jurisdiction to approve such a measure, following cities and counties in Florida, South Carolina, New York, Kentucky and Indiana.

The rule only covers unincorporated south Fulton, as that's the area the commission has direct governance over. It will not keep bullhooks out of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus' shows at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

Animal advocates said Atlanta will be their next battleground, as well as Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.

"I see this as setting precedent and a stepping stone," said Ware, an Atlanta Humane Society executive board member.

It was the third time Commissioner Robb Pitts brought the issue forward, and he finally got his fourth vote from new Commissioner Joan Garner.

Ban Bullhooks!

Supporters of a elephant bullhook ban react with cheers as the Fulton County Commission passed the proposal 4-1 during a meeting on Wednesday, June 1st. The proposal was voted down 4-3 in November but it passed on the third try. Animal rights groups argue that the sharp-tipped bullhooks are used to poke, prod and beat elephants bloody.

Twenty-two people spoke out Wednesday. A dozen of them opposing the ban were mostly employees or business associates of Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Brothers. On the other side were representatives of animal rights groups, carrying placards reading "Be an Elefriend" and a banner that said, "Circus Elephants Never Forget Beatings."

Ban Bullhooks!

Supporters of a elephant bullhook ban react with cheers as the Fulton County Commission passed the proposal 4-1 during a meeting on Wednesday, June 1st. The proposal was voted down 4-3 in November but it passed on the third try. Animal rights groups argue that the sharp-tipped bullhooks are used to poke, prod and beat elephants bloody.

The commission also received a letter from actress Demi Moore, which cited findings by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that circus workers sink bullhooks into elephants' flesh and twist them until they scream in pain.

Thomas Albert, Feld Entertainment's vice president of government relations, characterized bullhooks as "guides" and "elephant husbandry tools" used by some zoos, though not by Zoo Atlanta, where Deputy Director Dwight Lawson said because staff is separated from elephants by a barrier at all times, "they do not employ a guide/ankus/bullhook in the course of their routine care and animal management."

But, Albert said,  "without this tool, you cannot have elephants at the circus. Period."

Jackie Davis, executive vice president of Atlanta-based UniverSoul Circus, asked commissioners to postpone the vote so bullhook proponents could have more time to present their case. Several circus supporters complained that they were unaware the matter was being brought up again until the commission agenda went out Friday.

Atlanta City Councilman Michael Bond said he would need to do some research before taking a side. On the one hand, he said, no one wants to hurt defenseless animals, but Atlanta just lost the Thrashers and doesn't need to drive the circus and its sales tax dollars to a suburban county.

Bond said he didn't know if this was "something we would rush to address."

 

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