Labor leads compromise pushing bullhook ban in Oakland to 2017

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The use of bullhooks and other implements for controlling circus elephants will be banned in Oakland starting in late 2017 after city councilmembers reached a compromise agreement to phase-in the prohibition rather than the beginning of next year. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan offered the amendment after labor leaders reached an agreement with the operator that it would not pull the circus out of town within the next three years.

The ordinance passed, 5-2, with Councilmembers Larry Reid and Desley Brooks voting no and Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney abstaining.

Hours of testimony on the issue Tuesday night followed a similarly contentious public safety committee meeting a week ago. On both occasions, a vast majority of the speakers supported the ban on the bullhook — a fire-poker like device with a metal point and hook attached to one end, the use of which, critics say, amounts to torture.

“If you stop and think about it — it is cruelty — and it’s a sign of our values,” said Councilmember Noel Gallo, who, along with Councilmember Dan Kalb, sponsored the legislation, which originally sought to ban the bullhook immediately. “This issue is about banning the bullhook. We didn’t want to ban the circus. That was his choice and his argument,” Gallo added, referencing threats made by representatives of Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.

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