Written by: Heather Clemenceau, with commentary by Kimberly Spiegel. Artwork represents traditional bullfighting, not bloodless bullfighting but has been included here as handcoloured vintage postcards.
In the Toronto area, animal advocates have noticed that so-called “bloodless” bullfights (corrida incruenta) seem to be on the increase. Members of the Portuguese community defend the practice as a “benign” ritual that is part of a celebration of their cultural heritage. In 2009, California animal advocates urged Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley to press charges against a company that was staging the bullfights as part of the Festa da Bola, a three-day celebration of Portuguese culture. A humane officer working with the group Animal Cruelty Investigations reported that bull fighters were seeing using “long wooden sticks with several-inch sharpened nails on the end to stab, torment and infuriate the bulls.” The bulls do not necessarily spend the rest of the lives in pastures: as Jose Avila, editor of the Modesto-based Portuguese Tribune, says in the LA Times, the next stop for some bulls is the slaughterhouse.
As Animal Cruelty Investigations says in the LA Times, ”No animal should ever be made to suffer for so-called entertainment.” Bulls in any sort of fighting, “bloodless” or not, endure plenty in the ring, with people throwing darts and running at them, the noise from the audience and more. How “ethical” and “humane” can such a practice be? Is it really possible to make something that is inhumane (traditional corrida or bullfight) and make it acceptable to the masses or non-invasive to animals? Can it ever be said that even teasing an animal is humane? In my opinion, bloodless bullfights are merely another form of staged animal fight, either between man and bull or between horse/coriador and bull. Animal fighting of any sort should be banned. The padding on a bull’s back is only an inch to an inch-and-a-half deep. It will hurt the bull. Is it enough to kill the bull? No. Is it enough to torment the bull and make him mad? Yes.
For cruelty to occur two elements are needed: that unnecessary suffering is caused to an animal, and that those who cause it keep on causing it even though they are free to stop doing it. To deliberately and repeatedly cause suffering, even psychological suffering in the case of “bloodless” bullfights – for entertainment, while ignoring pain of the victim, is an act not only of cruelty but of torture.
Please read biologist Kimberly Spiegel’s letter below and petition to stop a bloodless bullfight event being held this weekend in Jackson, Mississippi. Kimberly was also interviewed by ultra-conservative radio station Supertalk Mississippi host Paul Gallo on December 3rd. Listen below to the broadcast, where the host shamelessly baits Kimberly and takes the interview off topic into a discussion on religion and then closes out the interview with an ad hoc advertisement for hamburgers and BBQ – Nice!. Kimberly has also appeared in this blog as the author of a letter to Bowmanville Zoological Park Director Michael Hackenberger, asking for the release of now deceased asian elephant Limba.
“To Pete Castorena:
I know you know who I am by now. Please know that none of what I am doing is in any way a personal attack on your culture, your business, or your livelihood. I apologize for any stress we may have caused you, but please know that I am guided by my conscience and I have to speak out against something that I believe is wrong.
Myself, and many others, have a system of belief in which we think it’s ethically wrong to do something to an animal that we would not do to a human, because all sentient life should be respected. As you have clearly stated, the bulls will not be killed at this event, and I do appreciate your efforts in trying to make this “sport” more humane, but why not find other ways to celebrate your culture? Why must you exploit animals in which humans are the only ones who gain? Owning slaves was once part of our American culture, until we became morally evolved and realized it was not ethical. Do you think culture is really a defensible argument for continuing to do something that exploits animals? Anybody can use culture as an excuse to do something immoral, it is not justifiable and history proves that.
Bullfighting is not a sport. A sport is something in which both parties have agreed to participate. Bulls belong in pastures eating grass, they do not belong in arenas being provoked into defending themselves against a human. As a biologist, I know something of animal behavior, and the bulls are not going to know that this event is not meant to harm them, their fear will be very real. All animals feel fear, it is instinctual and is an evolutionary adaptation. Empathy is putting yourself in their position and imagining how it would feel if you were in their place. So please take a minute to see it from their eyes, not understanding what is going on and why they are out of their natural setting, how frightening that would be.
What I am concerned about is the psychological suffering the bulls will experience through stress and fear. I was watching a youtube video of a bloodless bullfight to see what it looks like and in it I saw the bull with its tongue out looking very distressed. I have spoken with someone who owns bulls and is familiar with them. They stress easily and they also do not have the means of cooling their bodies as humans and horses do by sweating, and they also do not have tongues like dogs in which they can pant and cool themselves. They get overheated with little exercise. If you care about animals, why would you cause them this kind of suffering? How can you still call it humane? This is also not art. Art is meant to uplift and inspire others, this lowers us as humans.
I have read an article from a similar event in California in which the bulls were harmed because the Velcro padding was only an inch and a half thick which was not enough to protect them from the spears and they were actually being stabbed and were bleeding. How can you ensure this will not happen to these bulls? If it does, what sort of veterinary care will they receive? What happens to the bulls at the end of the show? Please also note the poll at the end of the article in which 65% of people agree this form of bullfighting is animal exploitation. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2009/05/animal-activists-cry-foul-over-bloodless-bullfighting-event-in-artesia.html.
Of course the matadors will be in danger also, and I wouldn’t want to see them get hurt either, but they made that choice to put themselves in that position, the bulls had no choice.
Everyone’s mission should be to protect weak ones, may they be animals or humans. This kind of activity shouldn’t be supported if we consider ourselves as humane beings. As Milan Kundera said “True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”
I received several comments on my petition from fellow Mississippi residents I would like to share. Deborah in Jackson wrote, “As a clinical social worker, I have strong concerns about an event that celebrates torture and cruelty – even simulated with rubber sticks. There is a well documented connection between animal cruelty and violence. Any event in which the crowd cheers (simulated) abuse of an animal is not an event that should be brought to this state and our community.”
Julie from Flowood wrote, “We have enough animal cruelty in this state with pit bull fighting! We are trying to get MS people to respect life!! We don’t need any more violence or even a simulation of it!”
Matthew in Jackson, “Encouraging bullfighting promotes other acts such as dog fighting and cock fighting. Such acts are cruel and lack a sense of compassion that is needed in society, and further encourages such acts as fight rings occurring in Jackson schools.”
Errol in Flora wrote, “Why are we still teaching our children these violent practices? Why can’t we show peace during a time of worldwide unrest?”
Carol in Jackson wrote, “Animals should not be enslaved to perform for humans! Some traditions need to be rethought!”
Karen in Cleveland wrote, “Even if the bull isn’t killed in this form of “entertainment” it is cruel and will cause the bull much distress. If humans want violent entertainment they should stick to cage fighting and leave all animals out of their sick amusements.”
I hope I have at least made you think about this issue from the other perspective, and shown you how much more beautiful it is to have love, compassion, and respect for all animals and that we should be caring for them. Thank you for your time.”
You can sign Kimberly’s petition “Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau : Cancel the Mississippi Bullfighting Event Dec.7th Jackson, MS” here.