07/24/12 Bullfights are Not Tradition!

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Animal Friends demands a more outspoken legal ban of bullfights in Croatia

- Violation of numerous clauses from the Animal Protection Act; Ministry of Agriculture asked to modify the Act

While working on the Animal Protection Act, which was implemented in 2007, the draft of the Act which was considered by the members of Parliament included a ban of all organized fights involving animals, clearly forbidding all actions by which animals were provoked into aggression. However, shortly before its enactment, bullfights were exempted from the Act by means of an amendment, with the explanation that bullfights were allegedly traditional in one Croatian village.

According to the Animal Protection Act, it is forbidden to "train animals to fight, organize animal fights, with the exception of traditional bull fighting, or participate in such fights, attend or advertise them and organise and participate in betting in relation to such fights" (Article 4, paragraph 2, item 5). However, bullfights cannot be considered either a competition or a tradition. It is indeed doubtful what the so called "bull games" are, since animals are simply provoked to attack one another. Considering that, bullfights are actually already banned in the present Act, given the vagueness of its definition of a "competition."

Another contradiction in this legal act is the fact that bullfights are not traditional in Croatia, including the regions of Dalmatia and the Dalmatian hinterland. Ethnographic sources and photographs never mention or attest bullfights. In fact, the "bull games" are fairly new in Dalmatia; this year the 19th Bull Games just took place in Radosic. Since bullfights were first organized in Croatia in the mid-1990s, they certainly cannot be considered a tradition. Instead, this evidence actually shows that bullfights are already illegal in Croatia, as there is no tradition in organizing them.

And even if there were a tradition of "bull games," violence against animals can never be ethically or culturally justified and must therefore be excluded from all traditional events. Croatia has quite a number of traditional customs with which it can promote its valuable historical heritage for purposes of tourism. Blood and pain of animals for entertainment can never be a traditional value. Besides the direct violence that the animals are exposed to, organizing events where the spectators, including children, are entertained by acts of violence and aggression is ethically unacceptable. It sends the message that violence is okay if the other, an animal in this case, cannot defend himself or herself, and that the pain and agony of animals do not matter.

Animals who participate in such fights have not chosen to do so; they have been forced into it. During the fight, the bull is led into a circle of hundreds of shouting and screaming people, which causes the animal to panic. Additional stress and fear also arises when another powerful animal attacks. During the fight, the animals hurt each other or even gore each other with their horns, thrusting into and trying to wound the other, causing even more fear and pain. Often the injuries are serious. And that is what the spectators can see.

What they cannot see is how the bulls are treated before the "bull games" at the stables or in trucks. Their owners often starve them and give them less water on the day before the fight. Often they give them brandy or smear their muzzles with salt in order to make them more aggressive, and they also sharpen their horns in order to make them more deadly. After the fight, the animals remain disturbed. They keep trembling and salivate out of agitation and fear. Before the very contest, they are often unnecessarily transported long distances. Moreover, "bull fights" usually include betting and profit-making for the organizers, as well as trading DVDs on dog fights, which are illegal, yet the police do not react.

These events are a clear case of animal abuse. Animals suffer fear and injuries, which directly violates the Animal Protection Act, according to which it is forbidden to "increase aggressiveness of animals through selection or other methods," "incite animals against another animal or humans or train them to be aggressive," "give stimulants or other unauthorized substances to animals in order to improve their performance in sports competitions," "organize and participate in betting in relation to such fights," use animals in competitions "in which animals are forced to behave unnaturally, or are subject to pain, suffering, injury or fear," or "force animals into a behavior that causes them pain, suffering, injury or fear."

The utterly atavistic practice of exploiting the animals' natural instincts and forcing them to fights against one another on account of someone's primitive understanding of entertainment is not a traditional value, but abuse. Banning bullfights would not harm tradition, since there are many forms of folk entertainment which do not involve animal abuse, such as tug of war, stone throwing, long jump, etc.

Animal Friends will send a request to the Ministry of Agriculture to modify the Animal Protection Act, that is, to erase the legal regulation that exempts the "traditional bullfights." Thus, the Ministry of Agriculture will only have to confirm the existing ban by throwing out the exception that is contrary to the interest of Croatia, its citizens, and responsible institutions. As a tourist destination, Croatia must be very careful about various practices that are being smuggled into its "tradition". Our goal is to achieve a complete ban of brutal exploitation of animals for the purposes of trivial entertainment as such "entertainment" is unacceptable in the 21st century.

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