WASHINGTON – In response to an announcement today that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is updating its elephant standards to phase-out all use of bullhooks, the Humane Society of the United States released this statement from Nicole Paquette, chief programs and policy officer:
“The Humane Society of the United States welcomes the news that, out of consideration for elephant welfare, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is revising its standards to phase out the use of bullhooks on elephants, as many of its accredited zoos have already done.
A bullhook is an outdated, circus-style training tool that resembles a fireplace poker and is used to inflict pain and punishment on elephants. While most AZA zoos have already switched to more humane and safer elephant handling methods, all circuses and roadside zoos with elephants continue to use this barbaric device.
We share the AZA’s goals of ensuring that all animals receive the best possible care. We hope future revisions to its elephant standards also prohibit imports of wild-caught elephants, expand space requirements and ensure zoos with elephants are located in climates that provide elephants with year-round access to the outdoors.”
In 1991 it was an AZA zoo that first demonstrated that captive elephants could be humanely handled without the use of bullhooks by using operant conditioning in a safe, protected-contact environment. Over the years, many other zoos have adopted this practice.
Two states (California and Rhode Island) and 15 local governments (including Austin, Texas; Minneapolis; Clatsop County, Oregon; and Fulton County, Georgia) have banned the use of bullhooks.