Friday, October 19, 2007

Bill In Massachusetts Would Prohibit The Use Of Chains And Bull Hooks On Elephants And Impose A Maximum Fine Of $5,000 And Up To A Year In Jail

Let’s hope that one goes through. These typically fail for some reason. Would help put an end to the use of elephants in circuses or other animal acts.


Bill to give animal cruelty the hook

By LaToya M. Smith, Eagle Boston Bureau

Thursday, October 18

BOSTON — Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's elephant superstar, King Tusk, may have to give up his gilded robe and custom-built tractor-trailer the next time he treks to the Bay State if lawmakers pass a bill that stalled last year.
The bill would prohibit the use of chains and bull hooks on elephants and impose a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to a year in jail for each violation.

The bull hook is a club made of wood or metal with a sharp steel hook and metal poker at one end.

Similar regulations have been passed in Quincy, Braintree, Weymouth, Provincetown and Revere, according to Scott Giacoppo, deputy director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"This is a weapon," state Sen. Robert L. Hedlund, R-Weymouth, told the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development yesterday.

"We had a hard time getting this in the Statehouse through security. That should tell you something right there. It's not a leash, it's not a tool or a guide, it's a weapon," he said.

Before the hearing, supporters of the bill demonstrated what they said was the cruelty attached to the bull hook. Archele
Hundley, a former Ringling Bros. employee, slowly bent her knees and got into a batting position. She stretched her arms far behind her head and swung the bull hook, imitating a trainer she said she witnessed beating an elephant.
"I've never seen such animal cruelty in all my life," she said. "What I have witnessed will remain with me for the rest of my life."

Hundley also said that she saw trainers punch horses in the face and saw elephants infected from standing in their own feces for long periods. She also breathlessly described seeing a trainer pull a hook down an elephant's ear canal until it began to shrill and bleed.

"This abuse happened on a daily basis," she said.

But opponents claim that the bill is unnecessary, calling the bull hook a harmless tool used to prod the elephants.

Bruce Read, an official with Feld Entertainment Inc., the owner of Ringling Bros., said the circus's animals are "healthy, thriving, vigorous and content."

"Each animal in our care is provided with full-time veterinary attention, nutritious meals and a clean, safe home," he said. "The use of guides, or bull hooks, and tethering elephants with chains are proven and humane management practices accepted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)."

Thomas Albert, vice president for government relations for Feld Entertainment, said the bill is discriminatory because zoos and fairs, such as Springfield's Big E, are exempt from the prohibitions of the bill even though they also use bull hooks.

"It appears that the exceptions were included in the legislation for no reason other than to attempt to overcome political opposition from the Big E and other local interest," he said.

Sen. Pamela P. Resor, D-Acton, said she is a strong advocate of animal rights but does not want to see some of the better circuses and zoos close.

"I don't think this bill is the route to take. We need special commissions, and we need to set up regulations for venues with large animals," she said.

The state Senate approved Hedlund's bill in 2006, but it never made it to the House floor for debate. Hedlund said he is optimistic that his bill will pass by December 2008 in both chambers.

"People's views and values are changing," he said. "Zoos have moved more toward educational values and replicating habitats, but the circus remains in this mindset that this is how you train animals, by making them do performances and acts that are unnatural to them with the use of the bull hook."

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