There are some practices that are so cruel and archaic, sometimes we are shocked that they are still in existence. While keeping elephants captive and making them perform asinine tricks for a crowd is already pretty ridiculous in our books, the situation only gets worse when you delve into how exactly trainers are able to make elephants do these “amazing” feats. So, how does a circus trainer get an elephant to balance on a ball with one foot? Are they elephant whisperers that can simply coo and make the gentle giant do all sorts of crazy pirouettes? Not at all. They employ torturous tactics like whipping, stabbing the elephants with bullhooks, and making the animal stand for absurd amounts of time. Thanks to legislation recently passed in California, however, circuses in the state will no longer be permitted to use bullhooks to train their elephants.

The decision was passed by the Senate and the Assembly by bipartisan votes of 27 to 10 and 65 to seven, respectively. We don’t know what’s up with those 17 voters who decided bullhooks were actually a fine idea, but we’d like to think they simply don’t know how amazing elephants are. After all, anyone who knows how intelligent, emotional, complex, and family-oriented elephants are, wouldn’t possibly vote to keep traumatizing them in this cruel way. Yeah … we’ll go with that theory.


Unanimous or not, the law has been passed and will go into effect January 1, 2018. And considering that public opinion on the use of wild animals for entertainment has changed significantly in the last few years, this will be a decision everyone will be happy about.

We obviously wish that California, and states around the U.S., and the world for that matter, would realize that circuses, in general, are the larger problem looming here and that abuse will surely continue to happen for as long as they are open. Until that day comes, however, we will celebrate each small victory that makes life better for captive elephants. If these majestic animals have to be captive, they should at least be treated with a sliver of respect. We applaud the California legislation for granting that sliver to captive California elephants, we hope that the decision will inspire other states to follow suit.

Image source: Andrea Izzoti/Shutterstock