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Archive for January 2011

Bullfighting: The end is in sight

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By Jennifer O’Connor

The barbaric spectacle of bullfighting has suffered another blow. Spain’s national television broadcasting network recently banned bullfighting from the country’s airwaves, deeming it harmful for children to watch. Previously, Portuguese state-owned networks made the decision to broadcast bullfights only late at night because of their “extreme violence.” While it may indeed be harmful for people—children and adults alike—to watch bulls being repeatedly stabbed and dying in a pool of their own blood, it’s deadly for the bulls who are tormented and killed in bullfighting rings.

It’s hard to believe that in 2011, people anywhere still participate in this violent blood sport. Yet in arenas in Spain, Mexico, South America, Portugal and France, bulls are routinely teased and provoked before being led into bullfighting rings.

The confused and agitated bulls fight for their lives as men on horses run them in circles while repeatedly piercing them with knives (called banderillas) until the animals are dizzy, weakened from blood loss and suffering agonizing pain. The horses, who are blindfolded, can also suffer serious injuries when they can’t avoid a charging bull. The matador (Spanish for “killer”) comes in only when the exhausted bull is already near death. Bulls are often still conscious as their ears and tails are cut off as “trophies” and as they are dragged from the ring on chains.

Those few still clinging to this barbaric tradition are finding themselves in nearly empty arenas. Last year, Spain’s Catalan Parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban bullfighting after officials were presented with the signatures of 180,000 people demanding an end to the carnage. Catalonia’s capitol, Barcelona, is widely considered the birthplace of bullfighting. At least 42 other Spanish cities and towns have declared their opposition to bullfighting, and according to a 2009 Gallup survey, 76 percent of Spaniards have no interest in attending or supporting bullfights.

Spain’s former environment minister—the daughter of a bullfighting expert—publicly denounced the blood sport, saying, “I am deeply ashamed of living in a country with such a tradition.”

Condemnation of this bloody pastime is growing worldwide. Portugal’s municipality of Viana do Castelo purchased the city’s bullring and transformed it into a science and education center. A poll conducted by Mexico’s Green Party found that 84 percent of respondents believe that the cruelty in bullfighting is unnecessary.

Álvaro Múnera—a South American matador who was once known as “El Pilarico” (the star bullfighter)—suffered severe injuries after being gored by a bull. Confined to a wheelchair, Múnera now works to ban bullfighting, saying he is haunted by the animals he killed—in particular, one “practice” cow whom he watched die (only to learn that she had carried a calf in her womb) and a bull who fought to live after a sword pierced his body and came out the other side.

The only thing keeping the fights alive and the bulls dying are tourists. Curious to see for themselves what a bullfight really is, travelers buy tickets or simply go along with what’s included in their travel itineraries. By the time an appalled spectator rushes out in horror, the damage has been done: The money spent for a ticket has gone to support the killing, and more bulls endure a painful death. 

If you care about animals and are traveling to one of those few countries that are still clinging to this barbaric tradition, don’t succumb to temptation. Bullfighting will only be relegated to the history books where it belongs when tourists stop paying to watch the cruel slaughter of animals.

Jennifer O’Connor is a research specialist with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;


Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

January 19, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Resolve to change a chained dog’s life

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Tis the season for self-improvement, but this new year, instead of obsessing about all the things that you should change about yourself, why not resolve to change someone else’s life for the better? January is “Unchain a Dog” Month, and each of us can make a world of difference for some of the most lonely, neglected souls on the planet—chained dogs—by getting involved, speaking up and taking action.

For dogs who are forced to spend most or all their lives chained up in someone’s backyard, the new year is just the beginning of another 12 months of pacing back and forth on the same muddy patch; shivering through night after wet, cold night; and aching for a friendly word or a gentle touch. There isn’t anything to look forward to when you’re serving a life sentence of solitary confinement—which is what chaining is. It’s the worst punishment imaginable for highly social pack animals like dogs, who need and crave the companionship of their human guardians and other canines.

Dogs long to go exploring with their special human, to be scratched behind the ears and to hear the words “good dog!” Like us, dogs get bored and need daily exercise and something to occupy their bright minds. They need to go for long walks, run, read the “news” on fire hydrants and catch Frisbees. Kept “out of sight, out of mind,” most chained dogs receive none of the things that make their lives worth living, and they become severely depressed or even lose their minds.

January is an ideal time to get involved in a chained dog’s life because it is one of the coldest, loneliest months for dogs who are forced to live outdoors. Dogs’ fur coats are no match for blowing snow and subzero wind chills. Puppies, small dogs, elderly dogs and dogs with short hair are especially at risk for frostbitten ears, toes and tails or even hypothermia.

Many chained dogs shiver night and day because they don’t have warm doghouses and straw to curl up in. If their water sources freeze, dogs can quickly become dehydrated, and since they must burn extra calories to keep warm during cold temperatures, dogs whose guardians don’t increase their food rations suffer from constant hunger and can even starve to death.

The only hope for many forgotten dogs is the intervention of a caring person—and that’s where we come in. If a dog is in immediate danger (i.e., if the animal is very thin, is ill or injured or has no accessible shelter) or if chaining is illegal in your area, a call to police and/or animal control officials is in order.

In situations that are miserable for dogs but still legal, we can help by befriending the animal’s guardian, earning his or her trust and asking permission to play with the dog, take him or her for walks, give the dog toys and treats or even take the dog to our house to play with our own canine companions. Most importantly, we can urge the dog’s guardian to bring his or her companion indoors to be with the rest of the family.

Many people begin to take better care of their animals after just one friendly conversation with a concerned person, and many dogs have had their lives dramatically improved or changed completely because someone cared enough to get involved. Now that’s a resolution worth keeping!

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a research specialist for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

January 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm