MOSCOW--Known for hardline positions against prostitution, public begging, and other activities he considers offensive, nine-year Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov on August 29 signed a decree forbidding a two-day exhibition of Portuguese-style bullfighting that was to have been held during the second weekend of September.
Luzhkov called bullfighting "an unacceptable display of violence."
The 13 bulls imported for the event were not to have been killed in the ring, although they reportedly were to be killed for beef afterward, but would have been tormented with banderillas by Portuguese matador Victor Mendes, French matador Marco Antonio Romero, and Russian female bullfighter Lidia Artamanova, who had apparently done all her previous bullfighting abroad.
Reports differed as to whether the fights were to be in the true Portuguese style, using barbed banderillas which cause the bulls extensive bleeding, or in the mock-Portuguese style of U.S. bullfighting exhibitions, with Velcro banderillas thrust into pads strapped or glued to the bulls' backs.
Luzhkov issued his decree after receiving appeals from Russian Orthodox Church patriarch Alexis II and French actress-turned-animal-defender Brigitte Bardot, who reportedly blasted him in 1998 for ordering the extermination of street dogs.
Russian Academy of Entertainment spokesperson Boris Utyugov confirmed that the bullfights were cancelled. Claiming losses of $1 million after selling 10,000 tickets, Russian Academy of Entertainment chief Andrei Agapov threatened to sue the city, after reportedly threatening since April to sue activists who began trying to stop the introduction of bullfighting to Russia in March.
"The day when the mayor of Mos-cow loses a case in a Moscow court is still far off," scoffed one civic official to London Times correspondent Mark Franchetti.
Public demonstrations were led by the local organizations Walking Together and the Center for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of Moscow, with out-of-town support from the allied Center for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of Kharkov, Ukraine.
World-class gymnast Elena Slyusar-chik, an active volunteer for the Kharkov group, ridiculed the pretense of bullfighters to athleticism with a spectacular sidewalk display using ballet moves and a hula-hoop.
The protesters also attacked the notion of bullfighting as culture.
"In the leaflets and brochures issued by our Center, we included Jack London's anti-bullfighting story "John Harned's Madness," and "The Corrida," the anti-bullfighting poem by Eugene Evtushenko," explained CETA/Karkhov spokesperson Igor Parfenov, who traces his own activism for animals to the writings of Leo Tolstoy.
Anti-Bullfighting Movement of Portugal campaign coordinator Maria Lopes urged activists around the world to continue efforts to keep bullfighting from spreading beyond Spain, Portugal, southern France, and parts of Latin America.
A three-day exhibition of Portuguese bullfighting was conducted in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, September 7 to 9. A bull squeezed through a fence and charged the crowd during the third fight on the second day.
Associated Press reported that, "Deputy interior minister Oganes Varian pulled up in a special ambulance and shot at the animal eight times from a pistol, police said. The bull was not subdued, so one of the bullfighters then stabbed him."
There were reports that the Yerevan bullfights were held to mark the 1700th anniversary of the establishment of Christianity in Yerevan.
"The Armenian Apostolic Church does not participate in or support events that display bloody scenes to the public and are against the norms of Christian morality," the Holy Echmiadzin press service stated two weeks before the fights were held.
Portuguese matador Mendes was scheduled to lead a similar exhibition in Kazakhstan on October 20/21.
An attempt to reintroduce the Indian variation on bullfighting to the former Portuguese colony of Goa, India, failed in September 2000. Promoters Alex Fernandes of Santa Cruz and Denzil Menezes of Agaciam were arrested and their bulls were seized. Both Santa Cruz and Agaciam remain Portuguese enclaves within India. Judicially banned under the Goa Public Gambling Act in December 1997, Indian-style bullfights involve two bulls who clash with each other. The contests are considered profane by most of India's Hindu majority and by Jains, whose population is concentrated in western India, north of Goa.
Belgian theologian Marie Hendrickx in December 2000 reminded Catholics via the semi-official Vatican newspaper L'Osserv-atore Romano that bullfighting is profane to the teachings of Christianity, too.
Hendrickx went on to question other forms of animal abuse sometimes associated with Catholic festivals, such as "throwing cats or goats off a bell tower," and asked if "the right to use animals to feed oneself implies raising chickens in cages smaller than a notebook, or raising calves in boxes where they cannot move or see the light of day, or pinning down sows with iron rings into a nursing position so that piglets can suck the milk without ever stopping, and thus grow faster?"
Hendrickx also questioned whether the right claimed by the Church for humans to wear fur means that the cruelties of trapping are morally acceptable.
Hendrickx wrote to point out in specific the significance of a difference between the initial and official translations of a passage in the catechism which at first was rendered, "If kept within reasonable limits, medical and scientific experiments on animals are morally acceptable practices, because they contribute to care for and save human lives."
In the official Latin edition and the final English version, the passage now reads, "Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for and saving human lives."
The major difference, Hendrickx argued, is that the change of the absolute "because" to the conditional "if" places a much stronger onus on humans to avoid causing preventable harm to animals.
The nuances of Catholic doctrine were noted in May 2001 by D. Serafim Ferreira Silva, Bishop of Leira/Fatima in Portugal, who explained to reporters that Fatima "is a sanctuary of peace for humans and nature," in keeping with the messages supposed to have been delivered there to children in 1917 by a vision of the Virgin Mary.
However, the Equestrian Associa-tion and Sports Club of Fatima proceded with a June 3 fundraising bullfight.
Said Maria Lopes, "The bullfight lovers say that they are much closer to the Catholic Church than opponents, because they say we defend abortion and people who live together but are not married."
Symbol of backlash
Portuguese bullfighting has been misleadingly promoted as "bloodless" since killing bulls in the ring was banned in 1928. Spanish bullfighters, by contrast, killed an estimated 35,000 bulls in 1999: 18,000 of them at about 3,000 regional festivals, the rest in big rings.
Noticing that Spanish bullfights attract more tourists, Portuguese promoters have recently defied the law, aware that the fines for breaking it could easily be paid from higher gate receipts. A part of the law putting bullfighters at risk of being jailed for three years if they kill bulls was rescinded in 1999.
Lethal bullfights have been openly held at Barrancos, near the Spanish border, since August 2000. Bullfighter Pedrito de Portugal reintroduced bull-killing to the Moita ring, near Lisbon, on September 1. Police held de Portugal briefly for questioning after he twice lapped the stadium with the bull's bloody ear in his hand, but released him after a mob threatened to storm the police station.
A similar mob assaulted protesters outside the Cascais bull ring on July 28, Maria Lopes reported, in an incident she said was not noted by any Portuguese media.
Adam Sage of the London Times reported in April 2001, and Patrick Bishop of the Daily Telegraph confirmed in August that tourism, including from Britain, is stoking a revival of bullfighting in France. A record 300,000 people attended a recent four-day series of bullfights at Arles.
"At this time of global exchange, economic liberalism, and European integration," said Marie-Jose Justamond, founder of the all-female bullfighting fan club Las Liviandas, "we want to get back in touch with our local identity."
Observed Sage, "As bullfighting has come to represent part of the anti-globalisation wave in France, so it has attracted visitors from increasingly far afield--often jet-setters who want to establish anti-global credentials."
Sage noted the presence at the Arles bullfights of conservative politicians from both Britain and France who never previously showed an interest. The French conservatives took the opportunity to denounce before substantial audiences a series of regional court rulings that France must obey a 1979 European Union directive that migratory birds may not be shot before September 1. The estimated 1.5 million French hunters kill about 32 million birds per year in a "season" traditionally running from mid-August to February.
Also denounced was a July ruling by the French Interior Ministry that village festivals in which crowds try to catch bulls who run with ropes around their necks are unacceptably cruel.
Scum also rises
Tourism is reportedly also filling bull rings in Spain, where the autonomous regions of Andalucia, Aragon, Extremadura, and Asutrias have no animal protection laws whatever, and a new bull ring is under construction at Mijas, near Malaga--a resort city which already has six bull rings close by.
The $4.5-billion-a-year Spanish bullfighting industry has even had the clout to force the government to pay subsidies to promoters who are no longer allowed to sell the meat of slain bulls because the practice is believed to have some risk of spreading mad cow disease.
At Medinaceli, Spain, however, the Asociacion Nacional para la Proteccion y el Bienestar de los Animales claimed a first in March 2001 when the town council was fined 50,000 pesetas for sponsoring a fire bull chase, involving the public pursuit of a bull who was festooned with torches on his horns and strings of fireworks on his back.
Similar events reportedly continue with impunity elsewhere, including the September 11 "Toro de Vega" in Tordesillas, Spain, in which participants chase and kill a bull using medieval spears, and a September 13 event featuring calves in Cali, one of the reputed cocaine capitals of Colombia.
Actress Penelope Cruz in February 2001 became possibly the least popular person in Pamplona when she signed a PETA petition against the annual Feast of San Fermin bull run, held each July. Made famous by the 1924 Ernest Hemingway novel The Sun Also Rises, the Pamplona bull run was then among just a few in which the bulls chase the people.
Post-Hemingway, the increasing popularity of recreational running coincided with an explosion of interest in Pamplona-style bull running--which is relatively safe, as Hemingway noted. Since 1924, only 13 runners have been killed, the last one in 1995, and just over 200 have been seriously injured, among tens of thousands of participants. The risk ratio is comparable to that of participating in major mass marathons.
Other runs are riskier--for spectators. In September 2001, Felix Rodrieguez, 81, of Rouen, France, was fatally gored as he videotaped the annual bull run at Medina del Campo, begun in 1970. Fight Against Animal Cruelty in Europe founder Vicki Moore, then 39, suffered a similar goring in 1995 while photographing the bull run at Coria. She died last year at 44 from complications of her injuries. Her husband Tony Moore continues to lead anti-bullfighting protests.
Attempts to introduce bull running to the U.S. have had mixed results. The first of two runnings held in Mesquite, Nevada in 1998 and 1999 was apparently more financially successful for promoter Phil Immordino than the second. Last year former rodeo performer Derik Strelsky hoped to attract several hundred runners at $75 apiece to a 20-bull run he organized at Jarrell, Texas. It drew 800 spectators, but only 20 runners: one per bull. Bull runs held in July 2000 and 2001 to start the 37th and 38th editions of the National Basque Festival in Elko, Nevada, have also drawn about 20 runners each. The 2001 crowd, however, was estimated at 5,000.
Attempts have also been made to introduce bullfighting in some form to U.S. and Canadian rodeos. The Canadian variant, performed at the 2000 Canadian Professional Rodeo Association finals, typically consists of two clowns teasing the bull. One clown hides in a barrel. The other hides behind it.
The California State Fair included a mock-Portuguese bullfight on August 19, 2001, promoted by Cotton Rosser of the Flying U Rodeo Company, based in Marysville, California.
"Bullfighting has been illegal in California since 1957," pointed out Eric Mills of Action for Animals, citing section 597m of the state penal code:
It shall be unlawful for any person to promote, advertise, stage, hold, manage, conduct, paritcipate in, engage in, or carry on any bullfight exhibition, any bloodless bullfight contest of exhibition, or any similar contest or exhibition, whether for amusement or gain or otherwise."
But the law goes on to allow that:
Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit rodeos or to prohibit measures necessary to the safety of participants at rodeos, and that, This section shall not...be construed as prohibiting bloodless bullfights, contests, or exhibitions held in connection with religious celebrations or religious festivals.
"On August 4 of this year, one of Rosser's employees at a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo in Paso Robles was videotaped electroshocking five different bulls in the holding chutes, in direct violation of the new California rodeo law, SB 1462, by Senator Don Peralta, of which I was the sponsor," continued Mills.
The Flying U Rodeo Company is also among the rodeo firms most often videotaped in the act of electroshocking bulls by Steve Hindi and other members of SHARK.
A year-long SHARK campaign forced Pepsi-Cola to stop advertising in bull rings in early 2000. More recently, SHARK video of rodeo cowboys electroshocking bulls caused the National High School Rodeo Finals to amend their rules to reduce but not eliminate electroshocking, and brought Big Hat Rodeo Company owner Rudy Calzavara to court to plead "no contest" to four counts of electroshocking bulls at the Kane County Fair in St. Charles, Illinois, on July 21, 2001. St. Charles banned electroshocking in May 2001.
"Cazavera paid a mere $200 for each count," said Hindi, "but subsequent violations could bring a fine of $500 each."