People and Other Animals: Good News in California

04/03/2015 02:46 pm ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015

Good news for the animals, and for those of us who care about the animals, here in California worth reporting celebrating. So, in no particular order...

Ringling Brothers Circus has decided to drop elephants from their traveling shows. (I spent a bit of time in Tanzania and came away from that remarkable journey certain that anyone who places elephants in captivity, that's someone who should be put into jail.) This change in the circus' policy follows two of California major cities (Los Angeles and Oakland) passing ordinances which banned the use of the very punitive "bull hook" tool thought essential by circuses and still backward thinking zoos for "working" with these truly magnificent and intelligent animals.

This is a major victory. Yes, it is a voluntary change of private industry policy. But it is a change which is made in response to a shift in the public perception of these animals, a change in what the public is willing to accept as appropriate for these animals. The world can change, it can get better.

Second, the San Francisco Board of Supervisor is just now proposing a new City ordinance to prohibit the performance of wild or exotic animals for public entertainment or amusement. Kind of odd, really, that this is now just surfacing in what is often considered the most progressive city in the nation when we remember that Colombia passed a national ban last year prohibiting the use of ALL wild animals in traveling circuses and carnivals, and that Mexico did the same this year.

Another animals-in-entertainment issue: I assume you're all familiar with the "running of the bulls," an annual event in Spain and Portugal which appears to be based on the following thought process: Hey, let's get frightened bulls running down small city streets chasing young men who've had their natural macho enhanced with lots and lots of alcohol. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, thanks to a lawsuit brought by PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the American version of this idiocy (known as the "Great American Bull Run", a name which I think should be applied to the upcoming presidential primary process) is now banished from California.

And, finally, the 2015 California State Fair (set for July) will again, like last year, not allow sows or piglets to be placed on display in those narrow farrowing crates. Although good news and coming after years of repeated campaigns targeting those in charge of the event, it's important to point out that this prohibition is not due to welfare concerns but, rather, it is motivated by concerns over a deadly virus. However, after years of pressure (a battle led by Action For Animals), the Fair has also now prohibited handing out goldfish in plastic bags as prizes to kids (that, almost always of course, just a way to watch the animals die).