The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced this week that it will phase out the use of bullhooks—cruel metal weapons used to manipulate the movement of captive elephants—from its 236 member facilities nationwide starting in 2021 and ultimately ban their use by 2023. Several bullhook bans are already in place in the United States, including in Rhode Island which became the first state to ban them in 2016. However, Rhode Island-based Roger Williams Park Zoo lobbied against the ban and received an exemption. To normalize the practice of using bullhooks, Roger Williams Park Zoo created a bullhook display and used the cruel weapons on elephants in public view. Animal-rights group In Defense of Animals (IDA) protested against the zoo’s flagrant disregard for the state bullhook ban and supports AZA’s new policy—with which Roger Williams Park Zoo must comply. “We are thrilled with the AZA’s decision to phase out bullhooks in member facilities, and that Roger Williams Park Zoo has already committed to complying,” IDA Director of Communications Fleur Dawes said. “Over 10,000 IDA supporters petitioned the Zoo asking that it stop using the weapons on elephants. The AZA bullhook ban follows numerous bullhook bans that already exist across the United States, revealing the public sentiment against using these weapons on elephants.”

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