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Los Angeles has now become the first major city in the U.S. to ban the cruel use of elephant bullhooks in circuses! LA joins other U.S. cites and counties that have instituted bans including Florida’s Hallandale Beach, Pompano Beach, and Margate, and Georgia’s Fulton County.

The LA City Council unanimously voted on the ban yesterday with a 14-0 vote. The ordinance outlaws the use of bullhooks in addition to baseball bats, ax handles, pitchforks and any other implement used on elephants and similar animals. The council voted to give circuses three years to choose their course of action — either handle elephants more humanely or remove them entirely from their shows, reports the LA Times.

“(Elephants) are trained and guided with bullhooks, which are used to inflict pain upon them and sometimes cut them when they’re hit,” said Councilman Paul Koretz to NBC Los Angeles, “We really want to change that. We think it’s a very cruel practice.”

Once the ban goes into full effect after the three-year prohibitory period, any traveling shows that feature elephants cannot perform anywhere in the city if they use bullhooks to train or handle their animals, meaning that these circuses will be prohibited from performing within the city.

Bullhooks have long been a subject of controversy in circuses (like animal circuses themselves). They are used to control elephants and force them into learning and performing tricks.

The tools look similar to boat hooks or fireplace pokers, with long handles and a sharp metal hook and tip. Both ends are used to inflict pain on elephants. Trainers and handlers use the hook end to apply pressure and the handle portion to strike elephants on sensitive areas. As a result of their use, many elephants have suffered from trauma and physical injuries like lacerations, puncture wounds and abscesses.

Plenty of undercover footage in the form of videos and photographs has been released over the past few years highlighting animal circus cruelty, with a special emphasis on incidents related to the use of bullhooks.

During the hearing, Councilman Paul Koretz unveiled his own investigative footage of this cruelty, and just a few minutes into the video, Council President Herb Wesston asked it to be cut off, stating, “Mr. Koretz, I believe we’ve seen more than enough. I’m ready to vote.”

LA’s ban is certainly a much welcomed victory for elephants and the fight against circuses. With time, it’s hoped that other U.S. cities will enact similar ordinances or better yet, ban animal circuses entirely.

Image source: Nazim Uddin / Flickr