End bull burning festivals in Spain.
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I express my deep and sincere gratitude to all the humane, civilised and normal people, who have supported this petition, since I started it in July 2018, who want to put an end to scenes like this:
More than 110,000 people, from some 160+ countries, have supported it. Importantly, this includes more than 30,000 people from Spain itself. I firmly believe that we will, one day, end the most barbaric of Spain's abuses of animals, which is the use of fire to torture them for entertainment. I have delayed the submission of the petition until the beginning of July 2019, while the numbers of signatures continues to grow so strongly. My initial target of 100,000, now appears to have been modest - very much to my surprise.
Background: The torture of bulls with fire is an entirely legal and widely enjoyed practice in several regions of eastern Spain, including Catalonia. It is enshrined in law, highly codified and in some places, specifically protected as "cultural heritage". The practice is a grotesque and sickening spectacle, and quite possibly the most sadistic abuse of animals for entertainment to persist in the modern world. It has no place in modern Europe, yet its frequency in Spain has greatly increased over recent years as the number of traditional, lethal bullfights has strongly declined (60% decline since the EU stopped paying subsidies for bullfighting in 2012).
Spanish society is becoming much more aware of the damage this abuse does to its image and reputation, and some positive changes have taken place. In the last 10 years, a powerful animal rights movement has emerged, making the best use it can of social media. These activists value foreign assistance, but cannot acknowledge it. Yet I have heard foreign Hispanophiles twist themselves into contorted verbal knots, trying to defend these practices, denying they exist, or asserting they don't really matter.
I launched this petition as I believe that there must be some way to stop the abuse of living creatures for entertainment in the horrific way you see below. I have asked for Pope Francis' help, since the justification for these events is that they celebrate Catholic (Patron) Saints or the restoration of Catholic rule over previously Moor-controlled areas of Spain. While this offends non-Spanish Catholics, this is the reality.
The Petition: We call on His Holiness to resolutely, unequivocally and absolutely condemn, the obscenity of the use of fire to torture and terrorise animals in the course of religious or historical celebrations, or as a means of growing popular entertainment, by means of a reiteration of the Papal Bull (Edict) of Pius V, which was addressed specifically to Spain, and ordered the excommunication of Spanish Catholics engaging in torturing bulls and other animals in what they mistakenly believed were ceremonies of religious glorification.
Approach: My petition is a "long read" and contains a lot of background information on the sources of the cruelty and the enjoyment of torturing animals. To stop something, we have to understand it. We also have to see it: there are numerous links to footage recorded by both participants in these events and animal activists in Spain. For fairness, it should be stated that the majority of Spaniards do not participate in animal torture events, but they do, in the main, tolerate them as part of their shared cultural inheritance.
I have realised during the petition that for many thousands of people, it has been the first time they have become aware of these practices and their scale in Spain. Few people are aware of the fire bull events, or the others in which children and teenagers stab and mutilate calves to death. While I respect it as a matter of individual conscience, I would emphatically ask people who enjoy holidays in Spain, buy Spanish produce or holiday homes etc., to stop for a moment and to question their own consciences about what they are helping to support. The majority of the animal torture events now rely on state/local authority subsidies, which are raised through direct and indirect taxation, including the tourist tax.
Reasoning: I believe that the use of fire, deliberately to inflict terror, pain and immense suffering, for the single reason of providing human entertainment, is an abomination and an affront to our common humanity. It is a little known practice outside Spain, since Spain is the only country where people torture animals with fire for entertainment. These events take place amid various settings, but most often to mark Saints' Days (the burning bull is portrayed as the "bringer of light"). Unfortunately, the number and frequency of these events, unlike traditional bullfights, is stable and in some places, increasing. In August 2018, the Valencian government announced that it was introducing more "animalista" (=animal friendly!!) fire bulls. In reality, this meant the legalisation of practices that had previously been illegal, particularly the igniting of groups of confined animals.
I am referring to events such as these (the footage is often very hard to watch, but please remember it is all accepted as entertainment in Spain):
Thousands of fire bull events take place across eastern Spain (Valencia region, Catalonia, Castellon, Aragon, and occasionally other regions) each year. Some are big "set piece", macabre spectacles ending in the animal's death (or slaughter, if it has been blinded and is therefore worthless). In others, the animal is taken away and may be used again, despite its injuries and suffering. The events take place wherever they can be arranged - on sports grounds, makeshift stadiums, and often, simply in the street.
The process is more or less the same across all the spectacles and is strikingly reminiscent of lynching. A clearly terrified animal is dragged to a stake, where it is tied up. In the "rope bull" events, the animal may have endured hours, or a day, of being dragged around on a rope, enduring physical abuse, before it is brought to the stake. There is footage of animals so exhausted they can no longer stand, being dragged to the stake by a huge mob. Frantic struggling takes place during the application of the flames and immediately afterwards. The noise the animal makes as it is brutalised and as the flames are brought to its horns is nauseating. This is often drowned out with music. Fireworks may be attached to the bull or thrown at it, or fires lit around it that it runs through. On other occasions, in a practice that was illegal until August 2018, flames are applied to bulls crammed together in cages and lorries; they crash around, stamp, panic, fall over and burn each other as the fire develops. They then stampede, to the delight of the audience.
All mammals fear fire; they flee it. The bull cannot do this. All mammals experience extreme pain when burned. The reports from Spanish veterinary associations on the practice make for grim reading. The animal suffers multiple injuries: burns to the head, eyes and back; blinding by heat and burning pitch falling into its eyes; cervical injuries to the neck and spine from being roped or from the frantic thrashing as it tries to rid itself of the fire; extreme physical and emotional stress sufficient to kill it from a heart attack. There are very distressing videos on the internet of flaming bulls smashing against walls to try to put the flames out, bloody horns hanging off with flames still attached, or dying on the spot from head injuries. In some of these recordings, participants run and kick the dying bull to try to get it back on its legs. They know they are engaging in acts of exceptional sadism, but enjoy them.
Ironically, animals fared better in Fascist Spain than they do now. General Franco banned fire bulls, and the practice was (totally) illegal in Spain between 1963 and 1977. However, a dramatic upsurge in torture festivals came after Franco's death, and fire bulls have become one of the predominant forms of bovine torture in the Spanish regions named earlier. They are part of a much wider picture of continuing abuse, torture and killing of animals for entertainment, often in the context of religious festivals. There are more than 19,000 events in Spain, each year, in which people celebrate historical or religious events with the torture and killing of animals. These events mainly involve bulls and calves, and include stabbing, mutilation, amputation of tails and ears, burning and drowning. Lamentably, in some regions, children and young people participate in the abuses.
The number of these events is not declining, despite the bans on the lethal bullfight (but not other forms of animal torture) implemented in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. Yet Spain strongly rejects foreign criticism of its treatment of animals, hence why this petition seeks an intervention from The Pope and is not addressed to the Spanish Government (it would simply ignore it). The Spanish government has - quite incredibly - applied for UNESCO recognition of some of the fire bull events as meriting world heritage status.
Desired Outcome: the Catholic Church in Spain remains a significant influence and its official view of bullfighting, dating back to the 16th century, is that it is "the work of the Devil". I believe that a Papal Interdiction specifically condemning and rejecting the use of fire to torture animals in the name of national celebration, historical tradition or religious ceremony, would be heard. Pope Francis is on record as condemning animal cruelty; it can only be hoped that he will speak out against one of the most egregious forms of it still to exist, and reiterate the Church's long-standing view on the torture of bulls for entertainment.
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