Anti-bullfighting protests set to continue

By INÊS LOPES

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Anti-bullfighting protests outside the Albufeira bullring appear to be gaining strength as more animal rights activists are joining in the effort to stop “animal torture disguised as culture” from taking place in the popular tourist town.

The latest protest, on August 21, again saw dozens of people of all nationalities gathering outside the Praça de Toiros (bullring) in Albufeira to alert tourists about the “torture and pain inflicted on the bull” in a sport that they say is better labelled as an “animal death trap”.

Although the bull is not killed in the arena in Portugal – except at Barrancos (read below) – anti-bullfighting people say the animal suffers for several days with severe wounds from being stabbed by a spear before it is put out of its misery at the slaughterhouse.

The Algarve Resident spoke to Isabel Searle, one of the faces behind the protest group Cidade de Albufeira Anti Touradas, which was started in June this year, to find out what keeps them going despite the lack of support from the local municipal authorities.

She said: “We decided that we were not going to stop until this torture and utter animal cruelty was abolished from our city and our beloved country. Hopefully, if we are successful, our efforts will help and motivate the rest of the country to fight too. We are pacific demonstrators but protest with passion.”

On Wednesday last week, approximately 40 people stood outside the bullring to say no to bullfighting in Albufeira in several languages. “Compared to the handful of protesters we had in our first protest, this is certainly not bad,” she said, adding that various nationalities participated in the protest, including British, Portuguese, German, Dutch, South African, Italian, Canadian and Swedish.

Isabel Searle wants tourists attending a bullfight to know that they will not be watching a “traditional spectacle representative of Portuguese culture” but a show “filled with torture, agony and blood, where the bull is beaten up before the show, then chased and stabbed with spears”.

“I take the loudspeaker and in both Portuguese and English tell the truth about the horrors of what they are about to witness,” said the protester, who is passionate about saving the bulls from the “agony they endure” as she says they are left to die a slow death, with wounds infected, before they are killed in the slaughterhouse.

Isabel Searle said bullring staff switched off floodlights outside so that protesters would not be visible to passers-by; however, the group was undeterred.

“We begged tourists, in several languages, to tear up their tickets and walk away. I warned them that they would be so disgusted that they might leave the bullring vomiting and crying,” said Isabel. “And indeed, many tourists walked out half-way through the show, some with children sobbing away in their arms. A young lady came outside to throw-up and left without speaking to us. She was too shocked.”

The protest ran from 9pm until midnight when people left the bullring. “The Portuguese must realise that bullfights give tourists the wrong impression,” she said.

It is reported that during the bullfight two ‘forcados’ (participants who grab the bull’s head at the end of the bullfight) were injured by the bulls and had to be taken to the local health centre.

Municipal authority ‘just wants the money’

“It is election time and we will do everything we can to stop people from voting for any political party that supports this bloody sport,” she said, adding that she was not impressed with the Albufeira municipal authority “as they have the power to stop the bullfights, but don’t. It’s all about money”.

A petition signed by more than 700 citizens so far will be handed over to Albufeira Câmara, which protesters say has been ignoring their plea.

The Algarve Resident contacted Albufeira Câmara for a comment from Mayor José Rolo but he was unable to provide a statement in time for this week’s edition. The Algarve Tourism Board president, Desidério Silva, was also contacted regarding the impact of bullfights in the tourism industry but said he would not comment on the situation.

The Praça de Toiros de Albufeira was also contacted for a comment regarding the recent protests but a response was not received at the time of going to press.

Isabel Searle knows she has the support of thousands of anti-bullfighting protesters around the world, but this woman’s plea is anything but easy in a country where a large proportion of the population admires the “bravery and skills” of bullfighters in a sport that aficionados describe as “a spectacle of Portuguese culture and tradition” and that they refuse to see disappear.

The next protest by the Cidade de Albufeira Anti Touradas is taking place in September at a date yet to be announced.

Barrancos bullfights

Meanwhile, more protests are expected this week as a festival in the Alentejo town of Barrancos, the only place in Portugal where it’s legal to kill the bull in the ring following the approval of an “exceptional law” by the Parliament in 2002, started on Wednesday and runs until Sunday featuring an events programme mixing religious festivities with bullfighting.