Animal rights groups launch protest outside bullring.jpg

Animal rights groups launch protest outside bullring

IN STARK contrast to the excitement and celebrations of the opening night at the capital’s new bullring complex, was an angry demonstration involving more than 500 animal rights protesters, displaying their disgust against bullfighting and those who support the sport.  

The protesters began their demonstration at 8pm on May 18, an action which saw demonstrators carrying banners and shouting slogans such as “murderers”, “bullfighting is for cowards” and “bullfighting is not art, it’s torture”. The demonstrators were wearing identical T-shirts bearing the slogan, Unidos Contras as Touradas (United Against Bullfights), which had been especially designed for the occasion. Several protesters were dressed in bull costumes and others as bullfighters, and they enacted typical bullfighting scenes, highlighting the suffering of the animals. The campaigners handed out thousands of leaflets which criticised the sport and the cruel treatment of the bulls.

The Resident’s Caroline Cunha spoke to Carla Carvalho, president of Acção Animal, one of the associations involved in the protest, the day after the demonstration at Campo Pequeno. “The protest went very well; we had around 500 people demonstrating. We had a small problem with the police at the start, when they tried to move us to a location we didn’t agree with, but, apart from this, it was a big success. The protest was even shown on RTP television this morning,” she said.

Carvalho explained more about the sport and her association’s objections to this traditional form of entertainment in Portugal. “Often, the bulls are raised specifically to take part in these shows. Bullfighting is very traditional in Portugal, but just because it is a tradition, does not mean it is right. Look at slavery for example and the time in history when women were not allowed to vote. People protested against these traditions because they felt they were wrong. We are fighting in the same way,” she said.

The president of Acção Animal went on to talk about the suffering of the bulls. “After the bull has been repeatedly gored by the bullfighters and can no longer stand, it is taken away backstage to the pens. At this stage, the animal is in absolute agony.” Carla Carvalho claimed that, as it is not legal in Portugal to kill the bull in the arena, “it is often left in its severely injured state for three days or more before it is killed. Salt is thrown on the wounds in a haphazard attempt to stop infection and the animal is just left to suffer,” she said. Apparently, according to Carvalho, as the bullfights normally take place on weekends, those responsible for putting down the bulls and disposing of them, often do not go to the bullring until the beginning of the following week.

“Bullfighting is completely stupid and has no meaning,” Carvalho told The Resident. “It is entertainment through pain. We are in the 21st century and this has to stop.”

The president of Acção Animal was optimistic, however, with regard to the likelihood of the sport’s future decline. “Bullfighting is slowly going out of fashion. Fortunately, more and more people are turning away from this. It obviously doesn’t bring in enough money anymore, and that is why here at Campo Pequeno they had to build all the shops and so on. Also, we know that the câmaras have to give tickets away for the bullfighting shows taking place at the municipal bullrings because not many people want to pay to see them these days.”

Joining the Portuguese animal rights groups at the protest in Lisbon were members from English association, League Against Cruel Sports, which is well known internationally following the role it played in the campaign to ban fox hunting in the UK. This summer, the League is planning to join forces with other European associations against bullfighting, to dissuade tourists from visiting cities where bullfights are promoted.

Jordi Casamitjana, who was responsible for bringing the group to Portugal from the UK, commented:  “Lisbon is such a beautiful city and it is so sad that it is actively promoting a show that the majority of the British population finds cruel and barbaric.”  

Thousands of British people are now actively involved in a movement for ethical tourism  and have decided to take a stand against Lisbon, a city that has returned to bullfighting,” he said.

Casamitjana finished his comments by declaring: “Portugal and its capital have much more to offer than this outdated form of entertainment, which is internationally condemned. This does not attract tourists – it keeps them away. We are delighted to have been able to take part in this protest and to support the work of the Portuguese animal rights groups.”