Director of Animal Care at Oakland Zoo “I was trained to use bullhooks on elephants” and why I’m advocating for a bullhook ban now
by | November 26th, 2014
bullhook

This photo was NOT taken at Oakland Zoo. This is a photo from In Defense of Animals showing trainers using a bullhook on a young elephant.

There is great news for people against cruelty to animals! The City of Oakland has introduced an ordinance to protect elephants and BAN THE BULLHOOK. This is the tool that trainers in circuses, entertainment and still a few zoos use to control, punish and intimidate elephants. See video of trainers in CA training elephants for performance  (WARNING – this video is graphic). We have a rare opportunity to bring this horrible abuse to an end here in Oakland but we all must act. Oakland Council Members Gallo and Kalb have agreed to sponsor an ordinance to ban the bull hook in Oakland. A similar ordinance just past in Los Angeles which is the first big city to pass such a ban. The time is right for Oakland. Please take a few minutes of your time to contact the Oakland City Council members – and if you can – to attend the Oakland City Council meetings on December 2nd and December 9th.

I have been caring for elephants in the zoo setting for over 30 years, early in my career I was trained to use a bull hook. It is an instrument designed to cause elephants pain by jabbing and hooking them with the sharp ends and using the stick portion to hit them. I was taught to jab and hook the elephant with the sharp metal parts on the most sensitive parts of the body. If an elephant did not immediately obey it would be hit with the stick as punishment. We worked inside the enclosure with the elephants with no barrier between us and the elephants. If an elephant did not obey right away it was thought to be challenging the keeper’s dominance so it would be punished by repeatedly hitting it with the bull hook.

 

Colleen Kinzley (center) speaking at the (Oakland Zoo hosted) press conference to ban the bullhook in Oakland.

Colleen Kinzley (center) speaking at the (Oakland Zoo hosted) press conference to ban the bullhook in Oakland.

 

In January of 1991 one of my coworkers at the Oakland Zoo was killed by one of the elephants when he told the elephant to back up and instead the elephant knocked him to the ground and killed him. It was a terrible tragedy but because of the danger to keepers Oakland Zoo became the first zoo to use a new method called Protected Contact (PC) to care for the elephants. In Protected Contact the keepers interact with the elephants through a barrier. The keepers are safe so there is no reason to have such strict and aggressive control over the elephant’s behavior. In PC the keepers use only positive reinforcement training, never any physical discipline or dominance. The elephants can choose to participate or not, if they participate they get tasty treats, if not the keeper will try again later or ask them to do something else.

 

Very quickly after changing to PC we saw the tremendous benefits to the elephants; we could still care for them but they would never again be hit, jabbed or dominated. The elephants personalities really blossomed in the new system, they were able to behave like elephants, express their emotion, and do what they wanted to do.

 

For many years I have been advocating to end the use of the bull hook. As an expert witness in many cases of abuse related to bull hook use, I have watched many hours of undercover video some very recent. I know that still today the bull hook is a tool used to cause pain and suffering. Dominance and intimidation is the standard form of handling and training when the bull hook is used. All animals deserve our respect and to live without the daily abuse that occurs when the bull hook is used.

OAKLAND RESIDENTS (especially) and Bay Area residents need to show the strong community support for this ordinance. This elephant protection ordinance would hold circuses to the elephant husbandry standard set by the Oakland Zoo, which manages its elephants using cooperative, non-violent, positive-reinforcement-based methods. To see exactly how we train our elephants this way, watch this short video of our Lead Elephant Keeper, Gina Kinzley training one of our African Elephants. 

So please take the time to help BAN the BULL HOOK in OAKLAND! Every individual can make a difference, whether it’s coming to the hearings about this ban on December 2nd and 9th, or writing/calling City Council members to let them know you support this ban.

City Council Meetings: The first hearing on this ordinance is before the Public Safety Committee on December 2, 2014 at 6 p.m. in the Sgt. Mark Dunakin Room – 1st Floor of City Hall; 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. Please join us to show strong community support for this important legislation. The second Meeting will be on Tuesday December 9th before the entire council in the Council Hall. Please join Oakland Zoo and come to these meetings if you can.

The Ordinance has two co-sponsors on the City Council.

WE NEED YOUR TO HELP GET THIS ORDINANCE PASSED!!!

We know that Ringling Bros. Circus is working hard to kill this legislation.

 

IF YOU LIVE IN OAKLAND please call your council member and ask them to support this ordinance. If you live in either of the two co-sponsors’ district please call them and thank them for introducing this Ordinance. Find your Council District: http://mapgis.oaklandnet.com/councildistricts/

IMPORTANT: If you live in Council Member Larry Reid’s District

PLEASE CALL HIM and ask him to support this ban:

(510) 238-7007; E-mail: lreid@oaklandnet.com

VERY IMPORTANT: If you DON’T LIVE IN OAKLAND please send your messages of SUPPORT to the council members ONLY BY EMAIL.

PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION FAR AND WIDE.

Send an email to (or if you’re an Oakland resident, you can telephone):

Noel Gallo – Email: ngallo@oaklandnet.com; Phone:  (510) 238-7005

Larry Reid – E-mail: lreid@oaklandnet.com; Phone:  (510) 238-7007

Dan Kalb – Email: dkalb@oaklandnet.com; Phone:  (510) 238-7001

Libby Schaaf – Email: lschaaf@oaklandnet.com; Phone:  (510) 238-7004

Pat Kernighan – Email Pkernighan@oaklandnet.com; Phone:  (510) 238-7002

Desley A. Brooks – Email: dbrooks@oaklandnet.com; Phone: (510) 238-7006

Rebecca Kaplan – Email: atlarge@oaklandnet.com; Phone: (510) 238-7008

Casey Farmer, Policy Analyst – Email: CFarmer@oaklandnet.com; Phone: (510)238-7003

Talking Points:

  • Please support the proposed ordinance to ban the bullhook and help to protect elephants.
  • This elephant protection ordinance would hold circuses to the elephant husbandry standard set by the Oakland Zoo, which manages its elephants using cooperative, non-violent, positive-reinforcement-based methods.
  • The Oakland Zoo, Oakland SPCA and world-renown elephant experts including the PAWS Sanctuary support this important ordinance.
  • Please follow Los Angeles’ lead and Ban the Bullhook. Los Angeles stood up to Ringling Bros Circus’ threats of pulling its business – it’s time that Oakland do the same.

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