Tag Archives: “bloodless bullfights”

By The Horns: Bulls Make Contact With Horses at “Bloodless” Bullfight in Dundalk

Cavaliera Mara Pimenta

Cavaliera Mara Pimenta with a Lusitano stallion

Writing and Photos by Heather Clemenceau (except where otherwise indicated) In southern Ontario, animal advocates have noticed that so-called “bloodless” bullfights (corrida incruenta) and bull runs 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.  With few exceptions, it’s been difficult to observe these bullfights because most take place on private property such as that owned by Elio Leal, whose 3,000 seat arena – Granadaria Sol y Toiros – hosts these events several times a year. The “bloodless” bullfight is so named because the bull wears a Velcro “saddle” on his back, to which the cavalieros stab the bull with their Velcro-tipped spears,  and his horns are squared-off and wrapped with a covering. You may think that a “bloodless” bullfight is comparable to teasing the angry neighbourhood dog, but all bullfights, whether bloodless or not, all have the same narrative of dominance over the “beast.” The bullfights take place in the small town of Dundalk, Ontario, population < 2,000. The arena, built in 2010, is about 90 minutes northwest of Toronto and was the project of Leal, who wanted to recreate the corrida on his farm. This year the event was easier to locate, since the Paso Fino horse showcase immediately preceding it was advertised by Equine Canada as part of the celebration of the Pan Am Games in Toronto. If you emailed the organizers of the Paso Fino event, you would get a reply promoting the bullfight, which wasn’t openly advertised. On this day there are an estimated 1,300 people in attendance, as reported by the Toronto Star, who was also present at the event.

Mara Pimenta also participates in the traditional "bloody" Portuguese bullfights. Source - http://farpas4.rssing.com/chan-6391260/all_p264.html

Mara Pimenta also participates in the traditional “bloody” Portuguese bullfights.

Leal’s farm is open to the public but the event itself is a fairly closely-held secret, and normally promoted in Portuguese. The remote location has made animal abuses fairly easy to conceal. Aside from the fact that teasing bulls is regarded by many as inhumane, it puts horses and other participants at risk. At this event, I confirmed for myself that, even though the bulls’ horns are capped and squared-off on the ends, they can injure the horses when they make contact. Can anyone honestly assert that a capped bull’s horns are harmless if striking a human or another animal with all the force that the bull can muster? The following are the cast of characters in the Portuguese “bloodless” style of bullfight:

  • The cavaleiros/cavaleiras are the horsemen or horsewomen, dressed in traditional costumes who fight the bull from horseback. In this event, there is no matador. There are two cavaleiras here today – Mara Pimenta and Joana Andrade, who also participate in traditional Portuguese bullfights (the bloody kind that ends in death for the bull).
  • The forcados are a group of eight men who challenge the bull directly, without any protection other than a thick “cummerbund” around the waist. The front man provokes the bull into a charge (these guys are otherwise known as the suicide squad), in an attempt to bring the charging bull to a standstill. The other seven men, lined up behind him, wait for the bull to come at their leader (who must surely be in line for a Darwin Award), and then rush in, piling on top of the bull to stop him in his tracks. Afterwards, the bull is distracted long enough for the first 7 men to escape, while the last man latches on to his tail, spinning him in circles before escaping himself.
  • The bandarilheiros are the cavaleiro/cavaleira’s helpers in the arena. While in the arena, they are holding the cape to distract or position the bull. The men agitate the bull—with shouting, fancy footwork, the wave of a cape—as part of an elaborate ceremony designed to show off their skills. Their presence serves to tire the bull, giving a brief respite to the horse in the arena, whose continual lateral movements would be tiring.Opening Ceremony - feature
  • The campinos are men on foot, armed with long sharp poles, who herd both the bull and Spanish cows among them back out of the arena and the fight is over. This particular role doesn’t seem to require much skill or daring, since both the bull and the cows are determined to get away from people as quickly as possible, and don’t need much direction. I’m relieved that the sharp poles appear to be mostly for show, since when challenged, the campinos climb the arena wall to escape rather than face-off against the indignant bovine.
  • Unlike the horses in a Spanish bullfight who are there primarily to be gored by the bull, these horses are beautiful and well-trained.  In this case they are Portuguese Lusitano stallions, who are skilled in dressage.  If you take the bullfight out of the equation, you would very much enjoy their graceful movements. They bow and perform lateral movements to avoid the advances of the bull, who is not nearly as athletic (but is very determined to charge the source of his torment). There are frequent horse changes by the same rider during each session – each horse is used for perhaps 10 minutes only.
  • The breed of bovine featured are Spanish fighting bulls who live on the Leal farm adjacent to the arena. Females of this breed are also used in this event, and they are also quite aggressive, occasionally stampeding and charging the arena walls. The cows are used to escort the bull out of the arena after the fight is over, after which a fresh bull will be used with a different team.
The bull has made contact with the horse's flank - feature

Bull made contact with this stallion – notice the bloody scrape on the horse’s right flank.

The crowd cheers wildly whenever the cavalieros stab at the bull or reach out and touch the bull’s head in passing. The horses leap aside, and the spectators gasp accordingly. Even though the various performances at the show are designed to wear out the bull, there is not much doubt that the bull is in charge, and the bull sees the horse as his enemy as much as the man. In three instances, the cavaleiros positioned their horses too close to the bulls, and the enraged animals made contact with the horses. One stallion was left with what I presume is a bloody scrape on his flank, but it could have been much worse. In addition, one of the forcados was very visibly in pain after his event, clutching his sides and gasping for air for several minutes afterward. Why wasn’t this mentioned in the Toronto Star article,  which published a very sanitized version of this event? Bulls have a high body mass and an inefficient mechanism to control the excess of body temperature (they neither sweat profusely like the equines or human beings, nor do they have very long tongues to eliminate heat like dogs).  As a result, after fairly limited exercise they are easily exhausted. This can be verified simply observing their facial expressions – the open mouth and the tongue out, sides heaving with exertion. Pulling on the bull’s tail also further agitates the animal, who spins around trying to hook his tormenter with his horns. Several bulls vocalized loudly when they were pulled by the tail, certainly a sign of pain. Afterwards, the forcados, cavalieros, bandarilheiros and campinos all walk the arena, to congratulatory waves and cheers. Spectators toss their hats into the arena where they are kissed and tossed back.

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In most bullfighting countries, statues of bulls regularly stand outside of bullfighting stadiums, and depict the animals in the most stately,  majestic way possible. But these statues are incongruent

Source - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullfighting#/media/File:Bull,_Ronda.JPG

Monument to Bull at the Plaza de Toros de Ronda in Spain.

with the reality of the bullfight where the bull is visibly exhausted and tormented,  and in many cases,  killed outright. The truth is, if a creature suffers then there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. We can have no right whatsoever to make them suffer for our “enjoyment.” Ignoring the potential for human injury at this event, the torment and potential injury of both horses and bulls is deserving of condemnation, and bullfights are surely the worst kind of torture since they are performed solely in the name of entertainment. How is the risk to horses, bulls, and humans acceptable?

Cruel Intentions? “Bloodless” Bullfights Still Cruel to Animals


bullfight3Written 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.

Paul Gallo tweets

It seems that Mr. Gallo loves to take things out-of-context and off-topic, in an effort to promote his radio show.

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 bullfightactually 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.”


Bloodless bullfights, if they feature the use of horses, can still cause horrific injuries even though the bull’s horns would be capped. Can anyone honestly state that they feel that a capped bull’s horns are harmless if striking a human or another animal with all the force that the bull can muster?

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.