Open letter to CEO Herbert Hainer re adidas pro-bullfighting ad

Dear Mr Hainer,

Many of our supporters have contacted us with regard to your advert featuring Derrick Martell Rose in a bullfighting arena.

I can understand adidas’s desire to portray its products in an unusual location and the spot would be enjoyable to watch and adequate if in reality the bull had the chance to win as Rose does in the spot. Corrida

The reality, however, is very different. The bulls are tormented during their entire period in the bullring. Lances are driven into the bull’s back and neck muscles to both weaken and anger the bull. Next, the terrified animal is stabbed with barbed spears and further disorientated. Eventually the matador forces the by now exhausted and severely weakened animal to do a few charges before he attempts to kill it with a sword. If this fails, the procedure is repeated until the bull finally collapses.

While the crowd applauds the matador the bull, often while still conscious, is dragged out of the arena. The matador may also be ‘rewarded’ with a trophy in the form of a bull’s ear and tail.

I am sure you will agree that this is a barbaric and torturously lengthy death for the bull.

As I am sure you are aware the Catalan parliament has voted in favour of a bullfighting ban which comes into force in January next year. In the whole of Spain bullfighting has been unpopular for years as recent opinion polls show. It has also been unprofitable and has only survived on subsidies paid for by the Spanish and EU taxpayer. Estocada Toreador Bloody Bullfight Plaza de Toros and Folkloric Show Cancun Mexico trip 2007 2 118

I am surprised to see that adidas is so far behind the times and promotes a cruel sport that I am sure a lot of your customers disapprove of.

I very much hope that you reconsider your decision to promote bullfighting and stop the broadcast of the advert.

Yours sincerely,

Florian Leppla
Campaigns Manager Bye-Bye Bullfighting

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Help stop adidas promoting bullfighting

For the promotion of its new trainers adidas has chosen a bloody location: the Madrid bull ring, Las Ventas. NBA star Derrick Rose ‘plays’ against the actors in a corrida, the deadly Spanish bullfight. The only difference to the real world is that Rose escapes the banderillas and the matador’s sword unscathed. The bull, however, always dies a long and painful death.

adidas completely ignores the cruelty that is inherent in bullfighting. Bullfighting is killing for entertainment and should not be portrayed as a harmless sports event.

We cannot allow adidas to get away with this!

Please email CEO Herbert Hainer and tell him what you think about the advert. You might want to mention that Catalonia has recently banned bullfighting and that most Spaniards have no interest in it. It is also worth pointing out that most adidas customers are probably against bullfighting.

Unfortunately there is no direct address for Mr Hainer, so please email his PR chief Jan Runau at jan.runau@adidas-group.com and the Group Social and Environmental Affairs sustainability@adidas-Group.com at adidas HQ in Bavaria.

Don’t forget to be polite and straight to the point.

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Anti-bullfighting protesters attacked in French bull ring

This video depicts brutal attacks against peaceful protesters in the bullfighting arena in Rodilhan near Nîmes in southern France on 8 October.

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UK newspaper celebrates Portuguese bullfighting saying ‘the horse is the star of the show’

The Independent, a UK broadsheet, has fooled readers into believing that the Portuguese style, where the bull is not killed in public, is a ‘better’, acceptable bullfighting. It sadly joins German weekly Die Zeit and others in publishing free pro bullfighting PR.


Run baby, run!

Forcados amadores de Agualva-Cacém (Portugal)

Adrian Mourby, in “In the bullrings of Portugal, the horse is the star of the show”, Sunday 16 October, makes readers believe that, despite bloody Spanish corrida and thanks to the Portuguese style, bullfighting is somehow acceptable or even admirable (‘the horse is the star’).

This notion of a corrida light, if you like, is, however, an illusion. Any discussion as to whether the bull suffers less at the hands of a cavaleiro than a torero distracts from the fact that bullfighting in whatever form is an outdated and cruel past time that has no place in a modern society. It is killing for fun and utterly unacceptable.

Mourby does his best to convince readers of his corrida light idea, but actually describes the distraction from the suffering that takes place in the ring:

I expected to be shocked by seeing an animal wounded in this way, but the cavaleiro attacks so quickly that you never catch the impact and your attention is then taken up by the enraged pursuit of rider and horse around the ring by a 670kg bull.“

He also emphasises that the bull is not killed in Portugal. That might be true, but after being chased through the ring and having been stabbed with barbed darts, the bandarilhas, the bull dies right after the fight behind the scenes – either from its wounds or by the hands of a butcher.

Killing is illegal, but there have been exceptions

While killing the bull in public is illegal, matadors not necessarily go to jail if they break the law, as suggested in the article. In 2007 renowned bullfighter Pedrito de Portugal was arrested and fined 100,000 Euros for killing a bull in the arena. He was soon released after angry protests from aficionados in front of the police station. Questioning the law Pedrito said: “Killing the bull is an art, and the way we do it in Portugal deprives the bull of his dignity.”

Another striking example is the town of Barrancos, close to the Spanish border. It ignored the law and encouraged the public killing. The government, obviously annoyed with the rebellious population, rewarded them with an exception to the law. As a result it has been legal in Barrancos to kill bulls in the arena since 2002.

Frankly, I am disgusted that the Independent, a progressive paper that has promoted animal welfare on many occasions, publishes such a blatant pro bullfighting story dressed up as travel recommendation for Lisbon. They should know better.

Posted in Portugal, UK | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

German weekly Die Zeit publishes shocking pro-bullfighting PR

The German weekly Die Zeit has recently published a clearly one-sided article about bullfighting which portrays a matador in a very favourable light  and completely hides the suffering and prolonged death of the bull. Furthermore, author Ronald Düker argues that Europe will lose a part of its culture following the Catalonian bullfighting ban.Estocada Toreador Bullfight Plaza de Toros and Folkloric Show Cancun Mexico trip 2007 2 126 

He interviewed the Spanish matador José María Manzanares and is clearly fascinated by him and his profession. By frequently linking bullfighting to art, describing the matador’s outfit with sheer admiration and emphasising that he was on the cover of every fashion title out there, Düker does not even make the effort to hide which side he is on. 

I doubt that’s good journalism, but would not really raise an eyebrow over it. The disappointing and frankly repulsive part comes when Düker links the demise of bullfighting with the economic crisis in Europe.

‘The imminent ban of bullfighting amounted to abolishing a cultural currency. One believes this ritual is a stain of the Mediterranean pre-Enlightenment and wishes for a Europe where such barbarism is no longer accepted.’

He then goes on to lecture his readers:

‘The spectacle of bullfighting depicts live […]. At the same time it is the most formal ritual you can think of – a danced art- and cultural history of Europe since it stretches back to the very beginning of the Occident.’

Maybe it is just me, but all I can see is blood, suffering and an animal that awaits a very painful death. No doubt, this man has truly fallen for the PR fairy tales from the bullfighting industry. If you describe a cruel spectacle such as bullfighting with such a flowery language and do not mention the suffering of the bull with one word you close your eyes to reality.

A shame, really. Die Zeit is an excellent paper and I am appalled that the editor’s allowed such a blatantly one-sided piece to be printed.

Posted in corrida, stierkampf | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Despite horrible injuries, bullfighting continues – financed by the tax payer

In one of the last bullfights of the season Spanish matador Juan Jose Padilla was gored by a bull in Zaragoza, Spain last Friday. He slipped and fell just after placing the banderillas, small harpooned daggers, into the bull. The bull’s horn then hit his face and pierced his jaw.

Padilla was rushed to hospital where he underwent a 5-hour surgery. He survived the accident, but parts of his face will be paralysed and he may lose sight in one eye.

I don’t intend to list all the horrible things that can happen in a bullfight. And I don’t praise the bull for injuring the matador, nor do I applaud the fact that a human being is injured. On the contrary, it is tragic that such incidents happen.

What I don’t understand is how many more people will have to suffer serious injuries or get killed before bullfighting is stopped. 

In almost all bullfights the bull dies a long and painful death. In some of them the matadors get hurt, sometimes injuries are very severe and can lead to his death. 

Bullfighting is driven by a ruthless industry that pays star matadors like Jose Tomas up to £400,000 for one appearance in the arena, paid for largely by the taxpayer, in Spain and the whole of Europe. Bullfighting is an unprofitable business – as well as it is unpopular by the way.

Is it coincident that such a nasty accident happens in one of the last bullfights of the season, months before the ban in Catalonia enters into foce on 1 January? Maybe. It definitely is yet another argument, and a very strong one indeed, to scrap the whole gruesome spectacle. For the bulls’ and the matadors’ sake.

Posted in corrida, Spain | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Simple reason to get rid of bullfighting: It’s disgusting!

I have just read this excellent article in the Guardian and wanted to share it with you. Alexander Chancellor in Comment is free reminds people that while there may be tradition and ritual involved, bullfighting, first and foremost, is repulsive and bulls haven’t asked for the fight.

Forget the tradition, ritual, costumes, music and the balletic nature of the spectacle; forget the symbolism and Spanish fascination with death; forget Ernest Hemingway and all that: it is difficult not to feel some revulsion at the manner in which the bulls are put to death.

Bullfighting in Madrid

Bullfighting in Madrid. At Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid

Sitting among the audience in Las Ventas in Madrid he, spotting the grand children of the Spanish king in the royal box, reminds readers that Spanish state TV cease broadcasts of  bullfights in 2007 in order to spare young people the gruesome experience. But what use is it if parents bring their children to the live event – and the royals leading by example?

Chanellor then draws an interesting parallel to very early attempts to ban bullfighting. Some 500 years ago the pope, worried about the health of the matadors, attempted to stop it. But he soon realised that the Spanish would never accept such a move. The situation now is quite different. The Catalan parliament voted in favour of a ban following a successful petition of the campaigning platform Prou who collected 180,000 signatures demanding to end bullfighting. The main reason here, of course, was the welfare of the bull.

In closing I quote a rather simple line arguing why bullfighting should cease to exist. For me it is sufficient, however, and surely a good enough rebuttal to aficionados bragging about tradition and the importance of bull breeding.

The bulls haven’t asked for the fight, and they don’t appear to derive any pleasure from it, whereas the matadors are colossal show-offs, who long for the adoration of the crowd. The stages before the final showdown are the least appealing. The lancing of the bull by a picador on horseback is followed by the planting by the banderilleros of barbed sticks into his shoulders, from which they hang limply, oozing blood.

Posted in corrida, Spain | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

‘Humanising’ the Toro de la Vega – a BBB investigation

A project that is close to my heart is the reform of the Torneo del Toro de la Vega which literally means ‘the tournament of the bull in the meadow’ and is one of the cruellest bullfighting events in Spain. BBB has reported on the event which is held every September in Tordesillas, Castile and León, central Spain.

Acto del Partido Animalista -PACMA- en Callao (Madrid). En memoria de Afligido, Toro de la Vega 2011

PACMA protest 'Rompe una Lanza' in Madrid on the day of the Toro de la Vega 2011

You might be surprised to hear reform and not ban. An outright ban would be my preferred option as this would guarantee the bulls’ survival. There have been a number of initiatives in the past, however, that did not get very far in urging the authorities to abolish it. A recent move by a Malaga legal firm therefore thought about a more subtle way of ending the cruelty involved: the humanisation of the Toro de la Vega. I could not make sense of that and the news I found was inconclusive. So, the BBB team went to Spain to meet Ignacio Francés of IFS Abigados who has worked on the case since 2010.

His idea of a reform is quite simple. Instead of having a crowd of armed men chasing, stabbing and eventually killing a bull, the bull would simply be led out of the village and to the meadow (vega) where it is set free. Since that might be very poetic it would not be as ‘entertaining’ as the real thing, so no one would come to see the event and it would subsequently die out.

It is unlikely that the Tordesillas authorities agree with the proposal. So, IFS Abigados have looked at the organisation of the Toro de la Vega and it seems that there have been irregularities regarding the transport of the bulls to the village. Also, IFS discovered that the organisers do not play by their own rules.

Aficionados pride themselves with the traditional rules of the event, yet on at least one occasion the bull reached the meadow and should have been pardoned. The chasing crowd, however, killed it nonetheless. A clear breach of the rules of the Toro de la Vega which could be challenged in a court.

IFS video footage of the event depicting the area in which the Toro de la Vega is held also shows a complete lack of health and safety precautions. Fines for breaking these regulations can be hefty and could eventually help end the event.

toro-de-nunez-del-cuvillo-3

So the first step could be to sue the organisers on the grounds that they have not adhered to the regulations for animal transportations. Suing them and the authorities for failing to provide barriers on the field protecting the audience from the bull would be a more severe step. And, if successful, a severe blow to the event.

It all sounds very simple, but it is obviously a long way until we see the end of the Toro de la Vega. An event, that has been held some 550 years and from which Tordesillas makes a good profit, does not cease to exist just like that. It will be hard work, but I am confident that Francés and his team at IFS Abigados are on the right track and do everything they can to make a ‘humanised’ Toro de la Vega reality.

BBB will be in touch with IFS and other people involved with the case, so check the blog for updates on the humanisation of the Toro de la Vega.

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EU insights to bullfighting subsidies – Round-up of the Brussels meetings

The BBB team was in Brussels last week for meetings with the European Commission and Eurogroup for Animals. It was the first time in the ‘capital of Europe’ and the main aim of our visit was to make contact with EU officials, MEPs, stakeholders and learn more about how the institutions work. There was also one subject we were keen to shed some light on: subsidies to the bullfighting industry.

European Commission in Bruxelles Brussels

European Commission in Brussels

If you are pressed for time, I can give you a one sentence summary. We did get a lot of good contacts and have a much better understanding of how the system works, but got more confused with regard to the subsidies.

First we went to the Directorate General Health and Consumers or short DG SANCO, where we met the Animal Welfare Unit.

Although the Unit coordinates the EU’s animal welfare policy, responsibility lies with the mighty agriculture department DG AGRI. Agriculture and with it billions of Euros of subsidies have always been the EU’s major issue and, with roughly 50%, top budget item.

After this very useful introduction to the Unit’s work we talked about the subsidies issue. It was not surprising to hear that they have no information that fighting bull breeders receive any subsidies.

No information about subsidies? Try harder to get them.

But you ask yourself, how hard did they try to get the information? EU bodies have to rely on official information, sure, but you would have expected some more insight, some off the record talk. The subsidies end up in the hands of people who make money from maiming and killing bulls. There have been plenty of credible media reports, here, here  and here. Even MEPs have openly spoken about the issue.

They question is how do you find out how much money is paid and who receives it. Naturally, we did not expect to come back with straight forward answers to these complicated questions. But you would have hoped that the Animal Welfare Unit at the European Commission gives you an idea, shares some knowledge of their work with regard to subsides.

European Parliament

European Parliament

Unfortunately they did not. They did suggest, however, to meet their colleagues from DG AGRI and a number of MEPs on the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development. That was useful, but the general sense we got from the meeting was that they did not acknowledge the problem of citizens’ money being paid to support a gruesome spectacle and insisted that there was no specific measure aiming directly at supporting bullfighting.

You can maim and kill bulls if it has been tradition

The details of the legal backing for bullfighting in general and its subsidies in particular, are complicated, but all go back to the Lisbon Treaty. Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) recognises animals as sentient beings and “pay[s] full regard to the welfare requirements of animals”, but then, at least for bullfighting, makes this protection null and void by adding that law and custom of the member states “relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage” have to be respected first.

The Commission made it clear that it considers bullfighting to be cultural tradition in Andalusia and elsewhere, and given the recent upgrade bullfighting received from the Zapatero Government this status seems cemented.

Meeting friends at the Eurogroup for Animals

For the next meeting we went to the offices of the Eurogroup for Animals. Set up in 1983 by the RSPCA and others, it now acts as a secretariat for a group of MEPs with an interest in animal welfare, the Intergroup. They mainly work on the big issues such as factory farming, international animal trade and consumer interests. So we wanted to highlight the problem of bullfighting and hear about the Eurogroup’s lobbying secrets. 

Our work was warmly welcomed and we got some good advice as to who of the MEPs to meet and what to press them for. A number of MEPs have a genuine interest in animal welfare and we will now contact them and arrange meetings to discuss a way forward in the subsidies issue.

Overall a successful and very interesting day in Brussels. We did not get a lot of answers, indeed more questions, with regard to subsidies for bull breeders. A good result for the first lobbying day. Rest assured, we will be back to find answers  to all those questions

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No more death in the afternoon: Sunday saw Catalonia’s last bullfight

When the international press covers bullfighting it is usually sad news. They run slide shows depicting horrible killing scenes in the arena, cruel fiestas such as the Toro de la Vega or the announcement of the Spanish Government giving bullfighting a cultural status.

Bullfighting in Madrid

No more! Bullfighting in Catalonia ended in Barcelona's La Monumental last Sunday

Not this time. The bullfighting season in Barcelona ended on Sunday and with it the the gruesome spectacle altogether. In July 2010 the Catalan Parliament voted in favour of bullfight ban which comes into for on 1 January 2012.

Some quotes from the papers.

Fiona Govan writes in the Telegraph that the number of people attending bullfights has been in decline for a long time in Catalonia. Organisers struggled to fill a third of the seats and make a living from the ticket sale.

Alice Tozer for news agency Reuters also looks at the economic future for the corrida in Spain:

Its popularity is dwindling in Spain, although it retains loyal followings in Andalusia, Madrid, the Basque country and some other parts of the country as well as southwest France. Corridas are increasingly poorly attended and Spain’s severe economic problems have also hit the industry.

While Charles Tremlett in the Guardian started off monumentally: “It was the end of more than 600 years of history. On Sunday evening, amid the cheers of fans and the bloody death throes of fighting bulls, Barcelona hosted its last-ever bullfight.”

Looking at the political arguments for the ban, the BBC‘s Sarah Rainsford stressed that “dwindling support is one reason the regional parliament voted in favour of banning the corrida […] [and] there is also a growing awareness of animal rights and, crucially, the desire of Catalan nationalists to distinguish the region from the rest of Spain and its traditions.”

Barcelona will survive the ban, in fact, I am certain, it will profit from it. Just look at Las Arenas, the former bull ring at Place d’Espagna that is now a stunning shopping mall designed by British architect Richard Rogers.

In closing and wanted to reply to Carlos Nunez, president of the Mesa del Toro, and others who see their civil liberties infringed by the ban. There is no right to kill animals for fun. It is as simple as that. 

Posted in corrida, Spain | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments