Spanish animal welfare organization La Tortura No Es Cultura and the American Animal Guardians have produced a video of a “fire bull” contest held in Vall d’Uixó, Castellón in which five bulls were subjected to tremendous abuse at the hands of bullfighting club members.
The bulls arrived in claustrophobic wooden boxes in which they traveled from their farms in very high temperatures, causing them to suffer from both dehydration and weight loss. The animals were then individually dragged by ropes and immobilized to a pole so that metal braces housing flammable material could be placed on their horns—and then the torches were lit on fire.
Each of the five bulls suffered the same fate: After a youngster cuts the rope that binds a bull to the pole, the animal runs bewildered in an enclosure while young people harass him by pulling him around on the rope, throwing sand and bottles at his face, or kicks him from behind the bars—all of which adds more stress to the animal. What appears to be a T-shirt is thrown at one of the bulls, extinguishing one of the fireballs.
After 15 minutes of alleged fun, the animals were again immobilized by the brute force of a group of young people and returned to the wooden boxes—where we believe they were then stabbed to death.
“We have observed numerous infractions, such as the throwing of sand, bottles, and clothing at the animals’ faces, the latter of which could have caught fire and burned the animals, kicking the animals from behind the bars, introducing the animals in the boxes with their horns still on fire, which could have set on fire the whole structure, and what appears to be the illegal killing of the animals with knives. We are preparing an official complaint for the Territorial Unit of Castellón,” says Jose P. Cubells, jurist of the Platform La Tortura No Es Cultura.
All of these infractions can be seen on our video, including the appearance of a killing knife in the transportation box, a specific type of weapon that is typically used to give bulls the coup de grâce in traditional bullfighting. Bulls used in fire events must be taken to slaughterhouses after the show; if it is proved that the bulls were instead illegally stabbed to death in the boxes, the organizers must face legal justice, as well as for the rest of infractions.
According to scientific studies, the suffering these animals endure at such events is undeniable. “Disorientation, anxiety, fear, and anguish can be witnessed in the animals by such behaviors as rapid and heavy breathing, repeated charges (their way of fighting against aversive stimulus, where the animal intends to ‘have it withdrawn from its sight’), violent shaking of the tail, pawing into the ground, excessive opening of the eyeballs showing the sclera, resistance to movement, or behaviors of escape, fleeing or evasion,” states the technical report of the Veterinarian Association AVATMA about these shows. “Also, once the torches that are placed on their horns are lit, the presence of fire causes the animal to be terrified (since it is instinctively identified as another danger sign), increasing his stress and anguish much more,” adds Jose Enrique Zaldívar, President of the Association.
Once again, Spain ignores the recommendations of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child that last year urged the country to protect children from the harmful effects bullfighting causes them. In the video, the presence of minors is apparent; a child can even be heard asking, referring to the bull: “Will they kill him?” “Why do they kill him?” minutes before the animal was stabbed in the box.
“Naturally, children do not understand how adults find the suffering of animals entertaining, much less that they kill them for the same reason. These shows distort the vision children have of animals, warping the innate empathy they feel towards them, and teaching them that violence has exceptions—in this case, if it’s fun—which can be very dangerous for child education,” says Marta Esteban, International Managing Director of Animal Guardians, and also a member of the Board of Directors of the Independent Council for Child Protection. Likewise, she condemns the fact that these cruel celebrations are carried out with the promotional and financial support of the City Council, the Provincial Council of Castellón, and the Regional Government, the Generalitat, whose supporting logos appear on posters of the celebration.
“The content of the videos has been censored by YouTube for extreme violence, which gives an idea of the irrationality of this type of cultural expressions and the exposure of children to them.Terrorizing an animal with what it fears most—fire—should never be a way of entertainment,” she adds. “These public funds should be used for social assistance, cruelty-free cultural expressions, or to teach young people to respect other species and the planet, as well as to help prevent global warming—not to encourage animal abuse.”